Bluethumb Finalists in the 2022 Archibald and Sulman Prizes!

The 52 finalists of the 2022 Archibald prize have been revealed by the Art Gallery of NSW; the calibre of this year’s artists is incredible. Two Bluethumb artists – Kim Leutwyler and Blak Douglas – are among the Archibald finalists this year. Plus, Bluethumb Art Prize judge and last year’s Packing Room Prize winner Kathrin Longhurst has also secured a place in the running to win the prestigious portrait prize.

With a diverse range of significant Australians sitting for the entries, it’s going to be a tough call on choosing the winning artwork this Friday. The artworks chosen as the finalist pieces discuss current affairs, societal norms and the unforgettable stories of our times.

Kim Leutwyler, Twice Sulman & Six-Time Archibald Finalist

US-born, Sydney-based artist Kim Leutwyler‘s artistic approach explores the complex, fluid nature of social constructs and identity. Current social norms are mirrored, questioned and challenged in Kim’s portraiture, as colourful abstraction meets figurative in a conceptual discussion over notions of beauty. Over the years, she has become a celebrated artist and a recognised activist within the queer community. The pleasure depicted within her pieces reminds us not only of the weight of her work, but also the importance of making it fun.

Kim with one of her many stellar portraits.

Kim Leutwyler’s subject for her Archibald entry was Shane Jenek. Better known under the stage name Courtney Act, they are an Australian drag queen, singer and television personality. “I have always been drawn to Courtney’s vibrancy, fearlessness and talent,” Kim comments on her choice of this year’s subject. “She negotiates the boundaries of gender and sexuality both in and out of drag.

The piece Shane and Courtney was quickly snapped on Bluethumb up following the announcement of the finalists! Find more prize-worthy art in our curation here.

“During our sittings we discussed life, love, gender expression and the many permutations of queerness we’ve experienced while living and travelling overseas. It’s a beautiful thing to meet someone and feel so instantly connected and comfortable in their presence. Perhaps that connection is bound to happen between two queer people who are openly and unapologetically themselves at all times,” Kim tells us. “As always, I blended realism and abstraction as a subtle vernacular to portray the fluidity and complexities of identity and sexuality.”

Kim’s entry to the Sulman Prize has also earned a place as a finalist. Giddyup is her second finalist piece for the prize, and depicts the painter in a self-portrait. “I recently took a trip to the Australian desert to help a dear friend make a queer cowboy film. It was a life-changing experience, involving unexpected flooding, epic dust storms that turned the sky red, and an emu named Toto who’d been shot in the neck with an arrow just before we arrived. Toto survived and we fell in love.

The Sulman finalist entry Giddyup is an oil on canvas, and is a portrait of the artist herself.

“The layered abstract brush strokes are representative of the beauty, turbulence and wonder that I experienced on that trip. I’ve worn one of my favourite leather harnesses and fringe bra as a nod to my fellow queers, as well as my cowboy hat and rope.”

Blak Douglas: Five-Time Archibald Finalist

A contemporary artist with Dhungatti roots, the work of Blak Douglas is distinguishable by simplified composition and its intersection with sublime detail in colour and design. Layers of irony and sarcasm entwine with culturally and politically-charged themes, in which he invites us deep inside his scenes and subjects. Blak Douglas was an integral part of the judging panel for the Bluethumb Art Prize back in 2020, and has since become a Collectable artist on Bluethumb.

‘The Boss & Blak on delivery day’: Blak Douglas with his finalist entry and Dr Michael Brand, the director of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Blak Douglas’s entry to the Archibald this year shows his long-term friend, Karla Dickens, and conveys an immeasurable sense of anger as she carries buckets of water whilst being knee-deep in flood water. Entitled Moby Dickens, the painting was delivered to the Art Gallery of NSW at around the same time Karla and the residents of Lismore were forced to evacuate due to rising flood water for a second time in under a month.

“Karla is a work of art herself and insisted she be painted with leaky buckets,” Blak Douglas previously told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This painting is such a literal metaphor for everything we are embroiled in right now, globally and domestically. There’s 14 clouds – it was quite biblical as it rained for 14 days and 14 nights in Lismore in February, and now the dark clouds have come again.”

Check out ABC’s interview with Blak Douglas on his Archibald Prize entry in the video below.


Kathrin Longhurst: Packing Room Prize Winner, Three-Time Archibald Finalist & Bluethumb Art Prize Judge

It’s been a flavourful couple of years for Kathrin Longhurst as she has continuously collected more accolades on an already distinguished CV. She was last year’s winner of the Packing Room Prize in the Archibald and a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Award. In 2020, she took home the winning entry of the Northern Beaches Art Prize. Such an extensive resume outlines her capacity as an artist. Growing up in the cold-war era has had an unquestionable influence on her portfolio, her early works intent upon ‘bending the visual paradigm of men and women at war, imposed by the patriarchal power structures of the past.’

Kathrin Longhurst previous shared her artist picks of artworks on Bluethumb – click here to see her favourites!

On the hunt for a strong, fierce character for her latest body of work, Kathrin Longhurst was introduced to her subject, Midori Goto. The series this painting belongs to, Mind-Field, explores how gendered language and stereotypes inform our view of women.

Irrational by Kathrin Longhurst, featuring her sitter Midori Goto.

“It wasn’t until we started working together, however, that I realised how much the stories I was trying to tell mirrored Midori’s own,” Kathrin explains. Kathrin describes her sitter as a passionate young woman who had throughout her upbringing, been told she has ‘too much attitude’ or was ‘difficult.’ “As a teenager, these labels led Midori to question her sexuality and gender. She was neither soft nor subservient, and therefore did not present as a “traditional” feminine archetype. She often felt society dictating that she suppress her strong-minded, rebellious nature.

“Midori began her career in childcare – a profession dominated by women – but eventually moved on to working within the arts community. As an advocate for artists and a studio manager, she has finally found her voice and is accepted for the woman she is.”

The winning entry will be announced on Friday 13th May. The team at Bluethumb wish all of the finalists the very best of luck in what’s shaped up to be a very promising Archibald!

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