David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

30 July 2017

Picky of the Bunch

The Archibald Prize : The prize will be awarded, in the terms of the will of the late JF Archibald dated 15 March 1916, to the best portrait ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia during the 12 months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees for sending in the pictures’.

the work must be a painting. Must be a portrait painted from life, with the subject known to the artist, aware of the artist’s intention and having at least one live sitting with the artist.

- from AGNSW Archibald Prize Entry Conditions

For some, the annual Festival of Portrait Regard is their Festival of Dagger Definitions.

Unsheathe your dagger definitions. Horseness is the whatness of allhorse.

- James Joyce, ‘Ulysses’

This art competition has a history of contention :

...the most famous was in 1943 when William Dobell's winning painting of Joshua Smith was challenged because of claims it was a caricature rather than a portrait.

Max Meldrum criticised the Archibald Prize winner in 1938, saying that women could not be expected to paint as well as men.

In 1997 the painting of the Bananas in Pyjamas television characters by Evert Ploeg was deemed ineligible by the trustees because it was not a painting of a person.
This year, John Olsen and Tim Storrier - both are former Trustees of the AGNSW, and both previous Archibald Prize winners via self-portrait entries - publicly criticised the winning work.

In the Daily Telegraph :

Veteran art dealer Hughes said he was “not unhappy” with Cairns being selected as winner but an incensed Olsen’s comment was simply: “Oh dear, oh dear.”

“I have never seen anything so superficial,” the 88-year-old said. “The thing is so totally bland.”

Sour grapes? “How can it be sour grapes when I am the richest grape?” Olsen said.

“I know nothing of the artist and I wish him very well but the thing is that it hasn’t got the necessary qualities that makes a portrait. Where the hell is the Archibald Prize going? If they get to that kind of level, what’s the point?”
.    .    .    .  

Storrier said Cairns’ win was symptomatic of a political “agenda”.

“What I’m referring to is the inclusion of certain types of paintings by certain types of people, which appears to me to be the case. The board has lost what its focus is meant to be, which is to pick the best portrait,” he said.

In the Age/SMH :

The Archibald Prize has once again sparked controversy with veteran artist John Olsen calling this year's winner, Mitch Cairns' colourful portrait of artist Agatha Gothe-Snape, "just so bad".

"I think it's the worst decision I've ever seen," the 89-year-old former winner and three-time judge of the country's best-known portrait prize said. 

Insisting that an outstanding portrait should give an insight into its subject, Olsen said Cairns' painting lacked analysis. 

"It's entirely surface, the drawing is just not there, and the structure, which is a summation of what makes a thing good, isn't there," he said.

What is "a portrait"? 

We can't find a definition of "a portrait" provided anywhere in the terms and conditions of this contest. 

In this regard ...

We were very interested to note as one of the 43 hung finalists, and therefore, presumably, a work considered by the Trustees to meet the stated terms and conditions of entry :

Tjungkara Ken's Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa 

(Seven Sisters dreaming), a self-portrait.

At the AGNSW Archibald Prize website, the artist is quoted :

‘I hold my father’s story, I hold my mother’s story… [it] doesn’t come out of paper or out of a book. It’s coming out of the ground here,’ said Tjungkara Ken in 2015.

‘When the ancestors painted our tjukurpa (dreaming) on the caves and on their bodies, it was a celebration of our culture, a way of identifying people and places, and a way of continuing our stories. Today, we have new materials and ways but the celebration and commitment to tjukurpa and cultural identity is always the same,’ says Ken.

‘My painting is a self-portrait through Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa, the Seven Sisters dreaming – a self-portrait of my country. For Anangu, they are one and the same.'


 A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
 someone looks at something...