Entertainment Arts Evocative work takes out Archibald people’s prize

Evocative work takes out Archibald people’s prize

archibald people's prize 2021
Julia Ciccarone's self-portrait was painted last during, during a COVID lockdown. Photo: Art Gallery of NSW
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An evocative self-portrait by Melbourne-born artist Julia Ciccarone has been named winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Titled The Sea Within, the large oil on canvas depicts Ciccarone lying on an expanse of sand with paintbrushes in her hand as a wall of cresting waves threatens to engulf her.

The artist is wrapped in a blanket, which she has had since childhood, and has her head resting on a suitcase that her father brought with him when he emigrated from Italy to Australia in the 1950s.

Votes were cast by more than 7800 in-person and virtual visitors to the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition, and Ciccarone beat 51 other finalists to claim the $5000 prize.

Accepting the award, announced online on Wednesday, Ciccarone said she was pleased that her painting had reached so many people in what is a difficult year.

“Viewing the exhibition has been limited in person, so I’m grateful that people have been able to engage with it online,” she said.

Ciccarone, a two-time Archibald Prize finalist, said the work, which she painted last year during COVID-19 lockdown, was a response to the “radical changes affecting culture and nature”.

“I’ve depicted the sea as a healing place for me,” she said.

“The painting continues my interest in the environment, and I’m thankful that people are still engaged with environmental concerns amid such turmoil nationally and internationally.”

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Ciccarone was an accomplished painter whose highly detailed work immediately struck a chord with audiences.

“Her depiction of vulnerability in a time of uncertainty continues to resonate as we once again navigate life in lockdown and seek both solace and shared connections through art,” Brand said.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition was scheduled to run until September 26, however the gallery has been closed since June 26 in line with public health orders.

The paintings can still be viewed virtually on the gallery’s website, which includes a 360-degree immersive view of the exhibition.