Congratulations to Mitch Cairns, winner of the 2017 Archibald Prize

Australia’s Archibald Prize achieves an intriguing combination of recognition and notoriety. Celebrating portraiture, the prize frequently courts controversy, often over interpretation of the rules. The subject must be distinguished in ‘Art, Letters, Science or Politics’ but artists continue to nudge the boundaries, reflecting new ways people influence Australian life.
 
This year, Mitch Cairns won the prize for his portrait of his partner and fellow artist, Agatha Gothe-Snape. Cairns, a Sydney resident, has been shortlisted for the Archibald Prize four times and twice been awarded runner-up. For Cairns, this work represents Gothe-Snape’s uncompromising nature whilst also capturing her grace.
 
Some of our favourite highlights of the exhibition include:
 
Olivia Samec, Like a queen
Social media’s impact on public life is a trigger for Samec’s portrait of high-profile blogger Constance Hall. Based on a photo Hall shared online, the painting shows her standing with baby on hip. The playful gaze and lack of adornment creates an image both intimate and universal.

Jandamarra Cadd, Cleverman
Uncle Jack Charles has endured much but has forged a successful acting career ­– recently on Australian screens in the Cleverman series. He is also respected for his wit and compassion. Despite hardship, his humour can be felt in the exquisite detail of Cadd’s closely framed portrait.
 
Jessica Le Clerc, Carbon comedy
Le Clerc was moved by the transformation of Rod Quantock from disruptive comedian to erudite environmentalist. With sharp observation of Quantock’s face and clothing, the portrait evokes the gentleness underpinning the activist’s persistence.
 
The Archibald exhibition can be viewed until 22nd October 2017 at the Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney