By Bev Jordan 

Local artists Paul Newton and Charles Mouyat are both finalists in Australia’s most prestigious art award, The Archibald Prize.

Established in 1921, the 2020 prize for portraiture, attracted more entries than ever before, a stunning 1,068, eclipsing last year’s record high of 919 entries. There are 55 finalists in the $100,000 art prize. The Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales will announce the winner this Friday September 25.

Paul Newton, who has been a finalist 14 times, asked fashion doyen Maggie Tabberer to sit for him again. A portrait he did of Maggie 21 years ago was also a finalist in the Archibald.

Newton told the Hills to Hawkesbury that his original portrait was one of his favourites. “It captured her at a time she was very, very vulnerable.

The 1999 portrait had Maggie in a long black kaftan. Paul said he let Maggie, now in her 80s, choose what she wanted to wear for the 2020 sitting and she chose a white kaftan and white turban.

“I started to work with Maggie for this portrait before Covid kicked in. She was just as beautiful and as elegant as ever … the light just shone from her.”

He referenced his first work in this year’s painting (see photo of paintings side by side).

“I was again drawn to the simplicity and graphic quality of this sort of composition; her strong presence needing nothing else to support her,” he said.

Archibald Prize
Newton’s portraits of maggie tabberer in 1999 and in 2020

Newton, who lives in Dural, completed a science degree at the University of Sydney and played in a band before choosing art over music and studying at the Julian Ashton Art School.

He won both the People’s Choice Award and Packing Room Prize in 2001 Archibald Prize for his double portrait Roy and HG and he won the Packing Room Prize in 1996 for his portrait of radio host John Laws.

He has twice won the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition.

Charles Mouyat has entered the Archibald prize five times and is a first-time finalist with his portrait of Matt Kean, State Minister for Environment and Energy (see photograph.)

He told supporters that being hung in the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a dream come true. “(It) is truly an honour I will never take for granted.”

Mouyat said: “Knowing Matt Kean as my local MP, and the controversy that he seems to thrive on, I saw the huge potential for capturing lightning in a bottle.

“The vision I had for this painting was fully realised before I asked him to sit. With the state in flames back in summer, the opportunity to do something remarkable was far too good to let pass.

“Matt Kean is responsible for an immensely challenging portfolio that must balance environmental protection, while ensuring our energy-hungry industries are supplied with sustainable base-load power,

“The flaming waratah represents both his passion for his job and the controversy that engulfed him over the summer.”

Mouyat, a musician, said he had the silver skivvy on hand which was made for a photoshoot his band Lapis Sky. He said he wanted to dress Matt in “quicksilver” to reflect his mercurial personality.

“I happened to have the skivvy on hand, and I had visions of a flaming, passionate heart rendered as the state emblem of NSW — a waratah — being a perfectly flexible metaphor for my painting. Even though I was nervous about pushing the boundaries, Matt played ball and was delighted with the result. To be perfectly honest, I gave it my all.” Mouyat has a Master of Art from the University of New South Wales and is also a creative director and musician. In an amazing twist, he is a near neighbour of Newton in Dural.

The Archibald Prize 2020 exhibition will run at The Art Gallery of NSW from September 26 to January 10, 2021 and will be followed by a tour. The ANZ People’s Choice winner to be announced December 16. Salon des Refusés exhibition, September 26 – November 29.

To see all the paintings in finals the exhibition, visit www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/archibald/2020/

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