By Peter Oglos and Andriana Simos
The finalists of the 2020 Archibald Prize have been announced by the Art Gallery of NSW, featuring an incredible artwork by Greek Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos of Papua New Guinea performer, Ngaiire.
The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is Australia’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious. Awarded to the best portrait painting, it’s a who’s who of Australian culture – from politicians to celebrities, sporting heroes to artists.
Speaking to The Greek Herald, Stathopoulos says it’s “a relief to have made the cut”, with this year boasting a record number of entries.
“It’s always a great feeling to be one of the finalists,” Stathopoulos says to The Greek Herald.
“It really is the major event in the Australian art calendar. As an artist, you want your work to be seen, and the Archibald traditionally has a massive viewing audience and garners a great deal of media attention.”
The Greek Australian artists revealed that the singer Ngaiire was his sitter, living a few doors away from his residence.
“I was invited to a performance in the residence and she was wearing this amazing Chinese frock and incredible head-dress. I found myself painting her in my head as I watched. I knew I had to paint her in real life, and I’m delighted she agreed to sit for me.”
Ngaiire has gained international notoriety for her hit songs ‘Fall into My Arms’ and ‘Once’. Based in Australia, Ngaiire’s music is part of a resurgent Australian Neo-Soul movement, being compared to artists like Jeff Buckley and Hiatus Kaiyote.
Stathopoulos says that there is no particularly subtext to his work, rather he just wanted to capture a “beautiful moment”.
“Some of my previous Archibald finalist portraits (like that of Sudanese refugee lawyer Deng Adut) have been serious and prolonged experiences,” Stathopoulos says.
“This is the sort of work I paint for the sheer joy of painting. Despite the elaborate costume and make-up, it’s a quiet, introspective painting.”
Stathopoulos’ artwork is made with acrylic and oil on linen, measured 99 x 99 cm. Despite potentially less viewers this year at the Art Gallery, due to the coronavirus pandemic, his artwork was selected as part of the Archibald advertising campaign.
“…So you can expect to see it on bus-shelters all over Sydney!”