Award winning artist Craig Ruddy dies aged 53 from COVID complications

Award winning artist Craig Ruddy, who won the Archibald prize in 2004 with a controversial painting of actor David Gulpilil Dalaithngu, has passed away aged 53.

Ruddy’s family announced his passing sharing it was due to complications related to Covid-19. He died in the arms of his partner of 20 years, actor Roberto Meza Mont at their home in Byron Bay.

In a statement Meza Mont, Ruddy’s twin sister Kelli O’Shannassy, and his family, said they were devastated and in shock.

“It is with the heaviest of tender hearts we let you know that last night Craig left his body peacefully at home in Roberto’s arms. We have lost the most divine human that gave so much to our communities, the creativity, the inspiration, the pure love and plenty of dance.”

“Let’s remember him as he was always wanted to be remembered.” the family posted to his Facebook page.

Ruddy won the prestigious art prize in 2004 with his large portrait of actor David Gulpilil Dalaithngu, who passed away in November 2021. The painting not only impressed the judges but also the public, but it was the subject of a court case after another entrant in the competition argued it was not a painting but a drawing.

After the court heard that Ruddy had created the painting using acrylic paint, pastels, charcoal, pencils, conte sticks and varnish – the case was dismissed.  In 2006 the painting was sold to a private collector for $312,000, double the amount that it had been valued at.

During his career Ruddy painted many prominent Australians including Cathy Freeman, Bruce Pascoe, and Warwick Thornton. Representing Indigenous Australians and culture was a central theme of his work.

He first develop his interest in art as a young child. Having been plagued by a life-threatening illness his parents limited the amount of time he could take part in physical activities, and he turned his attention to drawing and painting.

In the late 1980’s he studied design and illustration and went on to work as a landscape gardener, designer and art director. In 2001 he took a leap of faith and dedicated himself to pursuing his dreams of being a painter fulltime.

Graeme Watson

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