Amongst the fifty-one faces portrayed in this years crop of paintings was that of Canberra born dancer and choreographer, James Batchelor, painted by Melbourne artist Marcus Wills. While Louise Hearman’s portrait of Barry Humphries took out the prize, our favourite of Batchelor was highly commended alongside a portrait of Wendy Whitley by Natasha Bieniek.
For those unable to make it to the Art Gallery of NSW to see all 51 finalists, the Archibald Prize has now set off on a regional tour, giving thousands more people the opportunity to interact with the art produced for this prestigious prize.
When the finalists were first announced we were lucky enough to find out more about artist Marcus Wills and the subject of his portrait, James Batchelor. Wills is something of an Archibald veteran having won the prize in 2006 for his painting The Paul Juraszek Monolith as well as making the final in 2015 for El cabeceo. Wills graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1995 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and was awarded the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 1999. His work is dramatic, detailed, and highly considered.
The ersatz is a large, incredibly realistic portrait of Batchelor standing round-shouldered in nothing but a pair of white underwear. The painting was previously shown at Australian Galleries in Melbourne alongside a collection of smaller scale works, all examining the body in motion. Paintings depicting more ‘normal’ bodies in energetic positions were contrasted against the toned and defined musculature of a dancer rendered still in The ersatz.
‘When Marcus first approached me to be the subject of this portrait I was a bit cautious. I had never been painted before. But ultimately, I think I was just very curious to see inside the process,’ explained Batchelor. ‘I appreciate how methodical and mathematical it is, with every single detail having to be so precisely to scale. Especially given the size of this portrait, I think it’s really quite an achievement. I also liked the idea that it was dealing with movement in such a subtle way. Sitting for the portrait was like any improvisation I do really; it was an experiment with weight, positioning and presence.’
See all 51 finalists at one of these galleries during the Archibald Prize Regional Tour
2 December 2016 – 15 January 2017 : Wagga Wagga Art Gallery
20 January 2017 – 19 March 2017 : Cowra Regional Art Gallery
24 March 2017 – 13 May 2017 : Bega Valley Regional Gallery
19 May 2017 – 2 July 2017 : Hawkesbury Regional Gallery
7 July 2017 – 20 August 2017 : Western Plains Cultural Centre