The Archibald has been announced! You were waiting on the edge of your seats weren’t you? Me too. Even though each time I feel like it comes around quicker than the paint’s had to dry. Very much like tax time. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome headline in the newspaper. Arts and Culture section. Which I’m sure you’re all familiar with.
As always I’m floored by the talent, the ingenuity, the intelligence, the wit that these portraits display. And as always I look at the winning artwork and think…
I would never have picked that.
And then, as always, I dig a little deeper, shrug off my pre-established assumptions of what a winning portrait should look like, listen to an interview or join a guided tour of the archies* where they illuminate what is just so special about it. I am invariably blown away by this new insight and give myself a little pat on the back for being a distinguished cultural savant, capable of discerning truths and beauty unattainable to the hoi polloi.
For example, when I saw Mitch Cairns’ winning portrait of his partner Agathe Gothe-Snope, I thought hmm yes, nice bold colours. A bit weird. I like it. And moved on. But when it was pointed out to me – look at that green nose! A clear reference to Matisse’s La Raie Verte, a painting of his wife. And those lines! Creating parallels and perpendiculars with her body and surroundings, playing with the relationship between person and space. Her body composition! Referencing Delacroix’s Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, Cairns creates a revelry of acceptance and resistance of the lady of leisure stereotype – Agatha is surrounded by luxury, yet she is arranged in both a playful and contorted manner.
What finesse! What capacity for brilliance! What a sum of mind and skill! How deserving of the Archibald prize and my accolades! And all surmised simply from the opening of my mind, and allowing my subconscious to unearth the knowledge I have garnered from my wide exposure to early 19th century art and literature. And maybe a little from the 1pm gallery tour guide.
I wasn’t going to talk about coffee today, but I saw an opening, an artistic reference if you will. An art gallery guide is like reading the tasting notes on a bag of coffee or a bottle of wine. How often do I drink a coffee and think ‘hmm yes. Tastes like coffee. I like it.’ And then read those descriptors and think ‘Lychee? Nougat? Apricots sundried on the Amalfi Coast? Yes! I do! My palate has reached a heightened level of understanding!’ (Or not, sometimes we have differences of opinion. It was more of a Majorca Coast vibe for me).
Listening and learning from people in the know, who understand how molecules in coffee affect how we perceive taste and smell, who’ve referenced roasting curves from previous beans, who play with flavour profiles to create new and relevant artworks (cups of coffee).
Till next month, I look forward to being enlightened by all my cups of coffee and how this years Archibald won with torn up denim and some old socks.**
*I highly recommend it – they run a couple of times a day, and are free!
**This comes across as sarcastic. It isn’t. After being enlightened I will most certainly walk away amazed, and wondering if I’ll ever be talented enough to make anything worthwhile out of my drawers of old drawers…