Bluethumb’s Kim Leutwyler makes Archibald finals

Kim Leutwyler has just been announced a finalist in this year’s Archibald Prize. The Archibald is awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia,’ and is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Leutwyler’s portrait is of her good friend, top model and activist, Ollie Henderson. “AHHHHHHHHHHHGGHH I’m freaking out,” exclaims Leutwyler. “Ollie and I are both really excited about the portrait making it into the finals. I’ve always been truly impressed with the quality of work selected for the finalist exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW, and am SO excited to be counted among them. My partner and I frequent the Art Gallery of NSW regularly, and she’s always said that my work would be hanging there one day. Now that this dream is a reality I’m basically freaking out.”
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The Story Behind the Portrait
The Subject: “The subject is a friend of mine, who also happens to be a an activist, designer and one of Australia’s top models, Ollie Henderson. This 24 year old has received global recognition for founding fashion label and youth empowerment project House of Riot. She uses fashion as a vehicle for encouraging young people to start productive conversations about social change in Australia. House of Riot started in the form of 100 hand painted T-shirts with positive political slogans worn by her friends in between runway shows at Fashion Week Australia, 2014. It soon became a fully-fledged fashion label designed to address social issues such as equality, environment and economic status. 20% of t-shirt sales are donated to relevant non-profits.
“Having already graced the cover of major publications like Vogue and Style as a model, Ollie’s House of Riot project has been featured in US Vogue, Us Harper’s Bazaar, French Elle, Brazilian Elle, Nylon Japan, and a  range of other media including her recent Ted-x talk in Sydney. Ollie is continually transforming her multidisciplinary vision, engaging and educating young people to bring social change through creative expression.”
Ollie Henderson wearing House of Riot on Instgram.

Ollie Henderson wearing House of Riot on Instagram.

Why  Ollie was chosen/How the portrait was approached: “I typically create paintings of LGBTQ-identified and Queer-allied women, most recently focusing on those who have impacted my life in some way. My work explores the line between glorification, objectification and modification, using patterns and abstractions from each subject’s local and social environment as a subtle vernacular to portray the fluidity and complexities of identity.  As a feminist member of the LGBTQ community, Ollie publicly speaks openly about the objectification inherent to a career in modeling, and the unrealistic modification of images that sets unattainable standards of beauty.  Ollie is constantly evolving both in relation and opposition to her social environment, fighting against binary gender standards by taking on various permutations of androgyny. I can’t think of a more fitting subject for my work.”

How many sittings: “One sitting, plus our times hanging out as friends. I subconsciously study my friends’ faces for lines, skin palette and unique makers all of the time, imagining which colours I’d mix to achieve a highlight on their cheekbone or what brush I might use to accentuate their eyes. When doing a portrait I typically spend an afternoon staring at, sketching and photographing my friends before diving in to start their portraits that same evening.  On the day I began Ollie’s portrait we spent the afternoon at Moore Park so that I could study her from different angles using indirect natural lighting just before dusk.  We went straight back to my home studio where I began painting straightaway.”


Kim Leutwyler in her studio.

Completing the painting: “It took 4 days, spread out over 2 weeks. I generally complete a painting in 1-5 days but my parents came over to Sydney for a visit in the middle of completion so I decided to let it ‘rest’ for 9 days before finishing up.  Throughout the process I sent Ollie photo messages featuring various stages of the portrait so that she could offer critique on what looked inaccurate.  She’s currently away for a month-long visit to London and has not seen the finished work in person! I’m really looking forward to seeing her reaction to the piece at the opening reception mid-July.”

Buy Kim Leutwyler’s incredible artwork online here.

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