Friday, 22 July 2011

A day of art in the country

There seems to be more hype than usual surrounding the presence of this year's Archibald Prize finalists in Victoria. Perhaps it's because Melbournians have to plan 'a day in the country' if they want to see the impressive collection of 40-odd portraits, which are being exhibited during July at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art near Healesville -- but I think that's the point. I understand the Tarrawarra gallery was selected in order to give the region a boost after the devastating bushfires of two and a half years ago.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have my day in the country yesterday and saw the wonderful exhibition. Even this art-ignoramus can see why the Archibald is one of Australia's most coveted art prizes -- there's something madly compelling about faces rendered in as many different styles as paintings. Some faces are famous, some not; all are fascinating, particularly when viewed through the lens of the artist.

Aside from the sheer diversity in style and composition, I found it especially enthralling to read about the inspiration behind each painting: why the subject was chosen, what they mean to the artist, and insights into the artist's thought-processes behind whatever symbolism or techniques were used. It magnified my appreciation considerably, and highlighted some similarities between the creative arts of painting and writing. Quite inspiring really.

Pictured is DA by Amanda Marburg (Highly Commended). It's a portrait of wordsmith David Astle. The artist first modelled in clay then painted. Click here to see all the finalists' portraits.

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