Archibald organisers lick their chops….

Everyone loves a controversy, and especially so if you’re trying to promote the Archibald prize. John Olsen’s mean-spirited rant against this year’s winner Mitch Cairns filled the bill in that department.

Cairns_Mitch_Agatha Gothe Snape_oil on linen_140.5 x 125cm

Mitch Cairns, Agatha Goth-Snape, oil on linen, 140.5 x 125cm

There was a crowd of schoolkids pressing in around the Cairns work when I visited, and I didn’t give it the attention it deserved. I do enjoy the playful and honest approach of it and the tension inherent in the opposing forces of her arms and legs and how she obligingly has positioned  her own face to ‘suit’ the viewer (or more likely, the demands of her artist partner, for the portrait.) I enjoy how she is placed there on a floor echoing the modernist grid. There’s no escaping Modernism – we are bound to respond to it.  Read more about Mitch Cairns.

There were other works that interested me far more than Mitch’s work, good though it undoubtedly was. My personal favourite was the intimate and respectful work of Janet Dawson by Illawarra artist Ashley Frost:

Frost_Ashley_Janet Dawson at the door of her studio_oil on board_30 x 32cm

Ashley Frost, Janet Dawson at the door of her studio, oil on board, 30 x 32cm

It’s physically interesting, with Frost’s trademark impasto on a very small format, but it’s not laboured.  Frost often uses a lot of pink (we have that in common) and his landscapes sometimes end up too sweet for my taste, but this human landscape has a warmth about it that works well. More on Ashley Frost here. 

I also loved Nicholas Harding’s portrait of John Olsen, and it was amusing to note that the shape of his feet and legs and his body in relation to the chair – all those various areas, shapes and sections, as well as the colour – was where my interest lay. The least interesting part was his head and face! Maybe Harding doesn’t actually like Olsen that much?

Harding_N)John Olsen AO, OBE

Nicholas Harding, John Olsen AO, OBE, oil on linen, 198 x 138cm

More about Nicholas Harding here.