Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Archibald - relationships, intimacy, partnership

Yesterday I visited Tarrawarra Museum of Art to see this year's Archibald Prize exhibition. On display were the 41 finalists, chosen by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Many of the works on display were beautifully executed portraits. Two in particular caught my eye though, not only for the quality of the work but also because of the love story behind each. Each love story is a story of relationship, partnership, intimacy and undying love ... qualities that we all look for and long to find in our own unions, be they marriage or de facto, same-sex or heterosexual.

Jenny Sages, 'After Jack', 2012
Jenny Sages is an elder stateswoman of the Australian art scene. Her self-portrait shows her bereft; grief-stricken after the death of her beloved husband, Jack. Sages and her husband had been married 55 years when he died in October 2010.

During their life together, Sages painted just one portrait of Jack, 'My Jack', her entry in the 2011 Archibald Prize. Sages said about last year's work, ‘The MDF board on which this work is painted was the last one he built for me. I used it to make my first and only portrait of Jack.’

In 'After Jack' the raw grief, the sense of bewilderment, the questions, 'What do I do now?', 'How will I survive?', all speak so powerfully through Sages' honest and unflinching approach.

Craig Waddell, 'I see myself in you - self portrait', 2012

Forty years younger than his co-finalist, Sages, Craig Waddell's love for his wife, Jessie, is stated as powerfully as is Sages' for Jack.

Waddell writes that his portrait was, 'inspired by my wife Jessie and our deep, abiding relationship.'

HIs portrait is full of motion and energy, life and movement, the passion he feels for his wife and the energy and joy she instils in him, 'When I paint my wife my senses are highly stimulated; she brings out a passion in me like no other; a passion for life, for love and for paint.'

Waddell and Sages are sharing a great gift with us, the public. These portraits speak loudly of relationship - love, intimacy, support. May we all listen to them, hear what they have to say and embrace their understanding.


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