Bluethumb’s Archibald Prize Entries for 2017

Nearly 100 years since it was first established, the 2017 Archibald Prize once again proves the sheer talent emerging from Australia and surrounding countries.

Each year artists from around Australasia submit portraits of distinguished figures from the community to one of our oldest and most prestigious art prizes. The Archibald not only serves as a platform to support artists, but also immortalises the memory of great individuals.

This year, several Bluethumb artists hailing from around the country have entered into the award, including the following three. Their artworks showcase just a snippet of the high-quality works in this year’s competition.

Ben Tankard

Blue Mountains painter Ben Tankard has entered the competition on various occasions, however this year he has chosen a slightly more ‘colourful’ approach with his portrait of Australian pop artist Johnny Romeo, Black Classic 24.

Portrait of Johnny Romeo

Black Classic 24. Image courtesy of Ben Tankard.

“I painted Johnny in a similar style to his pop art portraits of rock and movie stars, so his face was broken up into differently coloured shapes,” Ben says. “The painting references Johnny’s art as well as my own.”

Ben Tankard's Unpopular Penguin 123 and Johnny Romeo's Vest Noir

Ben Tankard’s Unpopular Penguin 123 and Johnny Romeo’s Vest Noir.

Ben draws his inspiration from the covers of Popular Penguin paperback books and other pop culture icons such as the classic Monopoly board and Uno cards.

“The paintings are distorted representations of the subject matter, transformed with thick brushstrokes and often random lettering, retaining the essence of the original but also becoming something new.

“Every year though they select some stranger outliers, so I’m hoping that’s where mine could fit in – a bright, multi-coloured portrait of a really successful pop artist might just catch their attention.

“If not, it was fun to paint, and onwards to 2018!”

Tamara Armstrong

Queensland based artist Tamara Armstrong also uses an array of colour in her entry, with her striking portrait of TV host, actor, producer, writer and DJ, Faustina Agolley, AKA DJ Fuzzy.

Portrait of Faustina Agolley

The Power of Vulnerability and Surrender. Image courtesy of Tamara Armstrong.

The piece, entitled The Power of Vulnerability and Surrender, illustrates Tamara’s vibrant, bold and colourful style.

“I had been following Faustina on Instagram for a year after seeing her joyful and celebratory ‘coming out’ announcement – there was a picture of her beaming the happiest smile while looking up at mini fireworks shooting out the top of a giant rainbow birthday cake,” Tamara says.

“There are 33 shapes in the background which subtly reference this being the 33rd year of her life, while more obviously representing the goodness she receives and puts out in the world.”

Faustina Agolley comes out on birthday

Tamara was inspired by Faustina’s coming out photo. Source: Instagram.

However, as fate would have it, Tamara says the portrait was harder than expected, and not just because the two lived in different states.

“I can safely say, hand over heart, that this has been by far the most challenging artwork I have ever encountered,” Tamara says. “The creative process did not unfold well for me. I fought with my ideas, doubted my decisions and just couldn’t see an endpoint for about two months straight.”

Despite these challenges, together with Faustina’s support both parties felt proud of the stunning end result.

This is Tamara’s second time entering the competition, which she has come to use as a platform to voice her beliefs and communicate positivity and acceptance of self.

“I decided that I would like to continue to enter this prize, to stand up and be proud of my artistic contribution to the art scene here in Queensland and dedication to my practice and the women that most inspire me,” Tamara says.

“I believe that as more awareness is drawn to these examples of gender imbalance, unconscious bias and the need for greater representation and diversity, positive change can and will continue to occur here in Australia.


Tamara with her entry.

Kim Leutwyler

Continuing the trend of inspiring women is Sydney based artist Kim Leutwyler who migrated from America in 2012.

No stranger to the competition, Kim’s portrait of Ollie Henderson was an Archibald Prize 2015 Finalist.

Her current work deals with images of beauty, gender and Queer-identity – all themes that are visible in her entry this year with portrait of Michelle Heyman, the only openly gay athlete to represent Australia in the 2016 Olympics.

Michelle Heyman

Soccer player Michelle Heyman was the only openly gay athlete to represent Australia in the 2016 Olympics. Image courtesy of Kim Leutwyler.

“As a striker for the Matildas and one of Australia’s most impressive sportswomen, Michelle is passionate about being a role model for kids,” Kim says.

“She openly speaks out against bullying and encourages young people to feel comfortable with who they are.”

The US born artist said she used colours and patterns which reflected the athlete’s personality and tastes.

“Michelle is really drawn to greys and bright blues, and likes to wear black and white with little pops of red.

“I also incorporated a bright cadmium chartreuse which is reminiscent of her soccer uniform.”

 Kim Leutwyler

Kim Leutwyler with her painting The Boo and Baby Sitges.

Although her works are diverse, Kim says her creative process largely remains the same each year.

“I spend time getting to know my sitter, study their features and do some sketches and photographs to help me prepare.

“I capture and share my process via social media, especially Instagram, and get feedback from my sitter every step of the way.”

The finalists of the 2017 Archibald Prize will be announced on July 20 and the winner on July 28.

The exhibition opens at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on July 29 and will run until October 22 before heading out to regional venues.

Good luck to all our talented Bluethumb artists!

Bluethumb Finalists in the 2017 Archibald and Sulman Prizes

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