10 of the Best Emerging Australian Portrait Artists

Portraiture is an age-old art form, and one which artists continues to pursue. After all, the human face reveals endless amounts about what lies underneath, so it makes sense that many artists on Bluethumb have spent years perfecting the art form. Below, find 10 of the best emerging portrait artists of the moment.

Colour, Light and Shadow: Jac Clark

Jac Clark’s distinctive, painterly style plays with light and shadow through a wide spectrum of colour. “If I haven’t held a paintbrush in a few weeks I start to look for a blank canvas,” says Jac. “Portraits are my passion‚ using colour‚ and usually lots of it. The brighter‚ the bigger‚ the better.” In addition to painting people, Jac also creates vibrant portraits of animals. Jac was also a semi-finalist in the Bluethumb Art Prize 18.

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Lime Green Jumper by Jac Clarke.

Our Overall Winner: Kim Hyunji

Speaking of the Bluethumb Art Prize 18, Kim Hyunji took home the Works on Canvas award and the overall Bluethumb Art Prize, as well as the People’s Choice award for her portrait, Painless (Luke). Kim is a Melbourne-based artist, and having moved here a few years ago has seen her success and her following steadily grow. In part, Kim’s work explores the role of social media in the construction and portrayal of young peoples’ identities, although she tries not to get caught up in what those particular identities might be. “Even if my works are categorized as portraiture,” says Kim, “I don’t really project any personal feelings onto my models while I’m painting, I consciously try not to. I more so steal their facial features and expressions and I tend to express my feelings by borrowing their face. Through Luke’s face I wanted to explore the possible anxieties faced by individuals of our generation, living in the first world.”

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Kim in front of her winning artwork with judge Gina Liano.

Fresh Talent: Julius Killerby

Having just graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, Archibald finalist Julius Killerby is relatively new to Bluethumb, but unsurprisingly, several of his pieces have already gone to some very happy collectors. Using a mixture of photography and paint, Julius’s pieces depict figures on deserted islands as a metaphor for isolation, and its subsequent “extremes of virtue and vice” as well as “the emotional and physical claustrophobia of the world inhabited by his subjects.”

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Untitled, by Julius Killerby.

Making Strides: Kim Leutwyler

Kim Leutwyler is another finalist from the Bluethumb Art Prize 18, as well as a two-time Archibald finalist, a Sulman finalist and somewhat of a Bluethumb veteran. Kim’s work is highly distinctive in its style, which combines impressive realism with colourful abstraction, depending on the subject of the piece. Currently, Kim’s work focusses on beauty, gender and Queer-identity through the medium of painting – many of her subjects are LGBTQI or Queer-allied women – although she also works in printmaking, ceramics, installation and drawing. Through her work in portraiture, Kim hopes to “destabilise gender borders just as LGBTQ artists have been doing since the 70’s and earlier.” Given Kim’s huge success so far, we’d say she’s already making strides!

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Tamara Armstrong and Kim Leutwyler recently made portraits of one another. The results are stunning! Tamara, by Kim Leutwyler.

Prolific in Portraits: Loribelle Spirovski

Loribelle Spirovski works primarily in portraiture across varying levels of abstraction, and her work has been a finalist in both the Archibald and the Bluethumb Art Prize for two years in a row. She cites her work as the result of inspiration from “artists as varied as Francis Bacon, with his characteristically claustrophobic spatial relationships between figures and their surrounds, David Lynch’s dreamlike surrealism, and Olivier Messiaen’s static musical tones,” although says that “my own inner conflicts were perhaps the earliest and most formative influences on my art – I paint from the interior to recalibrate, to defragment and to liberate.”

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Loribelle with her piece Solipsist, now sold. Source: Por amor al arte.

Of her work in portraiture, Loribelle says that “I have found that portraiture enables me to reflect through the sitter, who becomes a conduit for both their own anxieties, as well as mine. My practice is an attempt to externalise internal conflict, creating a juxtaposition of movement and stillness that forms an unsettling effect, evoking a surreal and dreamlike quality.”

Minimal Perfectionist: Throwaway Art

Throwaway Art is an artist specialising in minimal, greyscale pieces that render a window to a whimsical moment. At first, one might think that his pieces are drawings, however he actually uses acrylic paint to create a high degree of tonal gradient and contrast in his hyper-realistic work. Throwaway is heavily influenced by street art as well as his background as a zoologist.

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You could almost believe this piece is a photograph! Throwaway wanted to capture a vulnerable moment with his friend and barber, Doug.

Portraits of Powerful Women: Tamara Armstrong

Tamara Armstrong paints a variety of subjects in her signature bright and colourful style, however, her portraiture in particular has lately seen a lot of success. Her piece depicting TV host, actor, producer, writer and DJ, Faustina Agolley, AKA DJ Fuzzy, qualified for the 2017 Salon des Réfusès and she also held a solo portrait exhibition earlier this year entitled Women of Colour.  Tamara Armstrong has well and truly cemented her status as a top portrait artist. Tamara has also had work in many other exhibitions over the years, as well as the Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2016.

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Tamara among some of her pieces for the Women of Colour exhibition last year.

Reading Between the Lines: Loui Jover

To say the least, Loui Jover is one of Bluethumb’s most prolific and well-loved artists. It’s always exciting to see a new Jover appear on Bluethumb; his signature style of dramatic female portraits is instantly recognisable for its use of ink and vintage book pages, and they tend to be snapped up almost instantly.

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The eyes are the window to the soul, and Loui makes sure they’re the centre of attention in this piece Exodus.

Depth and Dimension: Stacey Korfiatis

Another finalist in the Bluethumb Art Prize 18, Stacey Korfiatis’ work plays with perception and experience, incorporating sculptural, three-dimensional elements into many of her pieces. She references “issues of autonomy and empowerment in relation to the subject and the question of whether the frame exists to imprison or protect.” Stacey’s work has been in many exhibitions in the past few years, including the Stanthorpe Arts Festival in 2016.

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Stacey Korfiatis with her piece What Goes Up at opening night of the Bluethumb Art Prize.

Portrait Impressionism: Sharon Monagle

Sharon Monagle paints impressionist portraits of faces, as well as landscapes and crowd scenes. For Sharon, art is a means to explore and understand the human experience: “how we relate to each other, to our environment, to ourselves. I also use art to consider issues of importance to me: All artwork has the capacity to be political, some pieces more overtly than others.” Her mission this year is to “develop some new styles and themes based around people’s interactions and their uniques stories. They will incorporate the use of scraps, symbols, words and remnants together with colour, light and shade to evoke a response form the viewer.”

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The Truth is Here Somewhere by Sharon Monagle.

Want to see all our Archibald finalist artists in one place? Just click here to browse.

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