My Archibald Prize entry in pictures (and why I painted on a piece of paper the height of an Art Gallery of NSW wall)

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Almost three months ago I began a quest to win the Archibald Prize. No easy feat so I needed to do some thinking and sharing and to hear collective wisdom (thank you world).

I'd entered twice before without winning so wanted to understand what made a winner. I analysed all the previous winners to find some patterns to the mystery (think a giant oil painting of an artist in vibrant expressionist or realist style). But of course there have also been rogues that flipped the Archibald on its head like William Dobell in 1943 and Brett Whiteley in 1976.

Those rebels had a different take on what had come before but enough winning traits to capture the judge's imagination with a freshly different angle.

With the help of my audience and my inner inclination to go a little rogue I approached my entry this year as a ‘radical rebel’.

But what would a radical rebel look like? Turns out it wouldn't use oil nor canvas (convenient because of course I’m no Old Master). What it might do is use watercolours and ink (rarely won).

This was fortuitous because I would certainly not want to try and beat masters of oil portraits with an oil portrait - that is, don’t try and beat a strongman with strength. I had to approach my piece with what makes my stuff distinctive (think simple black ink lines, the usually unnoticed, a cityscape and vibrant colours).  

But of course to win one must first stand out (last year I saw the vast swamp of hundreds of canvases that looked like a scene from the novel '1984'). So I resolved to avoid canvas. Of course, paper is my constant companion but being noticed would require something else. So I decided on a gigantic piece of paper the edge of the size limit (limit of 3.3 metres high given the art gallery walls are 3.4 metres).  

But what to paint and how?

I needed a subject that resonated to keep me going in the lonely early hours of the morning as I tried to fill the gigantic paper. I’d previously seen and reacquainted myself with a certain artist who did just that. His series ‘Art vs Reality’ was tonic to my mind and sugar to my imagination. Likewise his most recent odyssey ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ was a poignant message told in a compellingly different way where he travelled to 8 cities across Australia putting giant street posters with a simple, beautiful message (ideally just out of reach of council cleaners).

His name? Peter Drew.

(Here are my notes from our first conversation which felt like speaking to a more articulate, suaver version of myself in a parallel universe).

But Peter is an artist competing with the giant world and a sometimes lonely message.

George Street is one of the busiest and most famous streets in Sydney with the Queen Victoria statue and building. It’s also a regular haunt of mine that brings together the most diverse set of people you can imagine. But it’s also one of the loneliest for eye contact with almost everything remarkable going unnoticed.

I wanted to tell of the bigness of the city and the smallness of an artist trying to change it.  

What I’ve also noticed is that artworks with small details draws an audience and the eye in, capturing precious time and attention.

Those are my feet in the foreground to put the audience into the picture (pink to symbolise the radical rebel). The stretching buildings to the sky recall Immanual Kant’s observation ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me’.

Now that it's complete, I wait...

Here is the expansive bird's eye shot... with all the detailed photos below.

Queen Victoria Building...

 

View from the Queen Victoria Building down...

The centre...

Town Hall and Queen Victoria's face...

Peter at work...

Peter in his glorious smallness...

Bottom looking up...

 My radical rebel shoes...(and you in the picture)

The complete series 'How to win the Archibald Prize'
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P.S - If you'd like an original print of my Archibald journey for $20 just go here.

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1 Response

Polly Ifould
Polly Ifould

July 14, 2015

Well done! Love your work!
From another artist who loves the journey!

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A billion people on earth would be nice :) A beloved collection of children’s books too (that Roald Dahl would be proud of). Oh, and a film trilogy...

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