2017 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes

With the usual amount of critical attention and sometimes grumpy debate that surrounds the selection of the Archibald Prize, the actual discussion of the portrait of Agatha Gothe-Snape, Cairns' wife seems to have been left at the door. 

Whilst Cairns’ portrait is in conversation with modernist painters, it is this year’s intimate portrait his wife that brought this previous finalist and 2015 runner up, to the judges attention.

Situating Agatha Gothe-Snape in a domestic sitting, there is a familiarity and warmth to Cairns’ portrait – in the gaze and pose – that cannot be achieved by a few sittings with an artist.

Cairns captures Gothe-Snape in a state of in-between. Whilst there is a surety to the yoga position, however an inevitable sense of movement and shifting due to the abnormal positioning of the body – which is perfectly captured in movement of twisted lines and shapes. Speaking of the pose, Cairns states, “In this portrait Agatha’s in an ‘uncomfortably comfortable’ pose; legs crossed, head turned, on our rumpled rug.”

Speaking of his emotive process, Cairns stated,“I composed this portrait with love. Agatha and I share everything in our lives; our two-year-old son; our work as artists and our day-to-day lives. Initially I made loose drawings of Agatha, just in the flow. It’s a domestic scene. When you have a young child there’s a lot of creative play happening on the floor.”

“No doubt the endearing intimacy of Mitch’s portrait of Agatha, also a highly regarded contemporary Australian artist, will charm audiences,” Ryan said. “There is a clarity to the collection of objects surrounding Agatha that highlights the domestic nature of the portrait, revealing tell-tale marks of the couple’s home life.”

The 2017 Archibald Prize had 822 entries this year from which 43 finalist portraits were selected. Congratulations to Jun Chen who received Highly Commended for his evocative portrait of former gallery director Ray Hughes.

Winner of the Wynne Prize, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani continued the success for APY Lands artists, following the success of the Ken Family sisters who were awarded the Wynne Prize in 2016.

“My landscape work is my country, Antara. This is my grandmother’s country. My family is responsible for taking care of this country. The Ancestors taught the lessons of taking care of country, and these lessons have been passed through the generations,” Pumani said. “When I paint my country I am celebrating the culture of my country, and am taking my turn passing on these lessons, passing on the Tjukurpa (cultural story) to the next generation of Anangu. This is how we keep our culture strong,” she added.

Joan Ross was awarded the 2017 Sulman Prize for her mixed media work Oh history, you lied to me. A multiple time errant to the prize this was Ross’s first time as a finalist. Speaking of the importance of her work, Ross stated “it discusses our ongoing issues in Australia arising from colonisation. I’m so happy that so many people will have a chance to see the work and keep these issues as a point of discussion.”

The 2017 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize Exhibitions are on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 22 October.

2017 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes
Until 22 October

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Courtesy the artists and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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