The Art Gallery of New South Wales today announced Julia Gutman as the winner of the 2023 Archibald Prize for her painting Head in the sky, feet on the ground. The oil-and-textile collage depicts her friend Australian vocalist Jessica Cerro, who performs under the name Montaigne. Gutman in a statement explained that she wanted her subject’s pensive pose to reflect that of Egon Schiele’s 1917 Seated Woman with Bent Knee in order to show the duality of the singer’s public and private personas. “Like Edith, Montaigne’s figure is distorted: at once angular and soft, representational and imagined. She sits in a vaguely suggested landscape, fragmented by a translucent screen, online and offline at once,” she said.
Gutman was a first-time finalist for the $100,000 prize, which recognizes the best portrait of an individual “distinguished in art, letters, science or politics” painted by an Australian resident. She is the thirteenth woman to win the prize since its 1921 founding; her portrait is the first of a female singer to take the honor. Montaigne, a 2021 Eurovision finalist who has built a considerable teenage following on the livestreaming platform Twitch, said in a statement, “I sure didn’t see it coming, not because I don’t believe in Julia’s incredible talent and warm heart, but because you just never think this stuff is going to happen to you.”
Zaachariaha Fielding, one half of the electronic-pop duo Electric Fields and a native of South Australia’s Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, won the $50,000 Wynne Prize, given annually for a landscape painting depicting Australian scenery or figurative sculpture. Fielding was honored for his painting Inma, which illustrates the motions and sounds of Mimili, the tiny community in which he was raised. “The atmosphere of this work is full of sound, movement and teaching,” said Fielding in a statement. “This is for the babies and it’s about them being taught by the masters, their Elders.”
Luritja artist Doris Bush Nungarrayi received the $40,000 Sulman Prize for her work Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster Coming). The honor is awarded in recognition of a subject painting, genre painting, or mural project. Her work, featuring flatly colorful creatures scattered across a background, depicts what the artist in a statement characterized as “ominous and malevolent spirits” known as mamus, or “cheeky ones.”
The winning works will be on view at AGNSW alongside of that of the finalists for all three prizes May 6–September 3.