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See the paintings shortlisted for the Archibald Prize

Australia’s most famous art competition The Archibald Prize has released the works which have made it past the judges and into final contention, and among them some very familiar faces.

The competition is awarded annually to the best portrait, it asks that the subject be some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, and it must be painted by an artist who is a resident in Australia.

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The competition is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and it began in 1921 thanks to a bequest from Jules Francois Archibald who was the editor of The Bulletin magazine. The winning entry receives $100,000 in prize money.

Among this year’s subjects is a wide range of well-known Australians including Missy Higgins, Tony Armstong, Germaine Greer, Julian Assange, Jacob Elordi, and David Stratton.

The Last Picture Show – David Stratton by Nick Stathopoulos.

Artist Nick Stathopoulos has chosen to create a new portrait of esteemed film critic David Stratton. Stathopoulos, who is known for his highly detailed images has been an award finalist on many occasions.

An Archibald finalist on eight previous occasions, Stathopoulos won the People’s Choice in 2016 with a portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.

He was a finalist in the 2008 Archibald Prize with an irreverent portrait of distinguished film critic David Stratton fast asleep in a cinema.

Sixteen years later, Stathopoulos decided to undertake a smaller, intimate, more serious work, choosing again to paint the now-retired Stratton in monochrome, but retaining the deep red of his cardigan – a cinematic device used to dramatic effect in the 1993 film Schindler’s list.

The portrait is titled The Last Picture Show – David Stratton, a reference to the 1971 Peter Bogdanovich film. 

Louise Milligan by Sam Leach, Chng Lai – After China (detail) by Kristy Neilson, and A spangled symbolist portrait of Julian Assange floating in reflection by Shaun Gladwell.

Journalists are featured in several of the shortlisted submissions.  Artist Sam Leach, who won the competition in 2010 with a portrait of Tim Minchin, this year chose journalist and author Louise Milligan as his subject.

Kirsty Neilson’s work Cheng Lai – After China is also among the finalists. In 2020 while working in China as a business journalist, Lai was imprisoned for supposedly ‘endangering China’s national security’ by releasing a government report minutes before the embargo lifted.

Constantly under surveillance, Cheng lived in an isolated cell with three others and only heard the voices of her children once in three years. She was released and returned to Australia in October 2023, and now works for Sky News Australia.

Shaun Gladwell selected Julian Assange for is portrait. One of the rules of the competition is that the artist must have a least one sitting with their subject. Assange is currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in the UK fighting against extradition to the USA.

Due to the oppressive restrictions at Belmarsh, which prevented Gladwell from taking paper or pen into his visit to Assange, he reportedly sketched his subject with chocolate on a banknote.

A lucid heart – the golden age of Jacob Elordi by Caroline Zilinsky, Missy Higgins by Nicola Higgins, Professor Marcia Langton AO by Angus McDonald (detail).

Jacob Elordi is best known for the TV series Euphoria, and his film appearances in Saltburn and Priscilla. Artist Caroline Zilinsky sketched the actor while he was filming The narrow road to the deep north, an upcoming miniseries based on Richard Flanagan’s novel.

Artist Nicola Higgins opted to paint her younger sister, sister Missy Higgins.

“I wanted to capture her in a creative mode, and it just happened naturally. Missy really lives and breathes music. In the painting, she is in her own little world, completely absorbed in writing a song.” Higgins said.

Angus McDonald has painted Professor Marcia Langton.

“An activist since she was 16, she has played a profound part in the struggle for Indigenous recognition and social justice for over 50 years,” McDonald said.

“Marcia is charismatic, curious, direct and one of our deepest thinkers. She has a well of stories which she relates with razor-sharp detail and humour. At the same time, she radiates kindness and warmth,” the artist said.

McDonald himself is also a subject of a painting this year, he posed for artist Mostafa Azimitabar.

Josh Heuston by Kelly Maree, Callum Linnane by Mark Wills.

Heartbreak High actor Josh Heuston who played Dusty in Heartbreak High is the subject for first time finalist Kelly Maree.

“As an artist, I am interested in exploring themes of sadness, having personally supported loved ones with depression and experienced the anguish felt when you are unable to ease their pain.” Maree said. “Josh was also interested in exploring these themes to help raise awareness around men’s mental health.”

Ballet dancer Callum Linnane is the subject of artist Mark Wills. Its Wills’ eighth time in the Archibald Prize, which he won in 2006 with a portrait of sculptor Paul Juraszek. 

Wild Wild Wiggle by Camellia Morris, The marriage of Nicol and Ford by Natasha Walsh.

Several of the paintings take inspiration from other works of art.

Blue Wiggle Anthony Field is captured by Camellia Morris for her painting Wild Wild Wiggle. It takes it inspiration from Elvis Presley’s screen prints of Elvis Presley.

Fashion designers Katie-Louise and Lilian Nicol-Ford are the masterminds behind the high-concept, inclusive and imaginative demi-couture label Nicol & Ford. They are also married.

Asked by Natasha Walsh which historical artwork they would like to reimagine, they chose the celebrated French painting Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters.  

Not a Mother by Holly Anderson, You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore by Paul de Zubicaray, Germaine by Liz Sullivan.

Holly Anderson is a first-time finalist with her self-portrait titled Not a Mother in which she explores the societal pressure to have a child. Paul de Zubicaray has created a portrait of singer Jaguar Jonze that is filled with symbolism, and Liz Sullivan selected Germaine Greer as her subject.

The winner of the Packers’ Prize, selected by the staff who handle the hundreds of paintings that are submitted each year, was awarded to Rhythms of Heritage by Matt Adnate. His subject is rapper Baker Boy (aka Danzal Baker).

Adnate also created the cover art for Baker Boy’s 2021 album Gela, which won an ARIA Award for Best Cover Art.

‘I learned to paint through doing graffiti letters as a teenager; I switched to portraiture in 2010. This painting was produced mostly with spray paint, a medium that has always allowed me the most control.” Adnate said.

“It’s been a challenge to maintain my own technique and resist the pressure to use oils or more traditional mediums. I’ve always considered the Archibald to be the pinnacle of art prizes, especially for portraiture. To win the Packing Room Prize with a portrait that is so significant to me, and to be the first street artist to do so, it really pushes me further.” he said.

Rhythms of Heritage by Matt Adnate.

Over 1000 painting were entered for the competition this year and judges whittled it down to just 57 finalists.

The winner of the Archibald Prize will be announced on 7th June and the finalists will be on display at the Art Gallery of new South Wales from 8th June until 8th September.

Take a look at all the finalists, and dive into the winners from previous years

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