The 2023 Portrait Competition Winners Are ...

The 2023 Portrait Competition Winners Are ...

 I have come into the Studio reluctantly. Somehow, despite having been vaccinated for the winter flu, I managed to have picked up something anyway. The old parlance of Australia is to call it a wog. As a young man I used to take offence to that if I heard a white Australian refer to their flu or bug as a wog. These days I find it rather amusing. You see we have all become so offended by insults that I am finding insults exotic and wonderful these days. When I was a young man I was insulted far more by my friends for being of Greek heritage – “shut your sandwich box Atgemis those wog sandwiches reek”. Casual racism like that is now removed from my daily life and perhaps it’s Stockholm syndrome, but I kind of miss it. We were a school of hard knocks, a country where you had to prove yourself. “I’ll show you wog sandwiches you BLEEP”. Most of those that chided me are now my best friends. Those that didn’t change their ways are not in my life.

So, I have caught a wog.

But I felt I should drag myself away from my iPad which rests on one of our cushions, half cashmere half embroidered tropical leaves on linen ground, on my big bed with my cashmere blankets strewn around. I am sick, but not too sick that I can’t write this post, I guess. The important thing is, I need to get on and declare the winner, rather than watch yet another David Attenborough documentary where he tells me all the wonderful parts of nature that we are destroying punctuated by a plea that there is still time for us to make some changes, but that maybe it’s too late anyway. I am shocked that the Holocene is being fucked by 1 degree Celsius. I thought the world would be a little more resilient but given the way society is behaving at the moment, it makes sense.

The winner is….

The winner of this year’s first portrait competition is Paul Horseshoer (no, that’s not his real last name). It came in late and unexpectedly. As did most of your submissions. Paul is from Western Australia. It has a real Russell Drysdale feel to it, but I hate it when people compare a piece of art to another artist, but I do it anyway. What a wonderful surprise it was, the incongruency of a man in a smoking jacket with his bow tie holding his beverage (beer or G& T?) in that unforgiving red earth of Western Australia. As far as I am concerned if I walked into the Art Gallery Of NSW I would consider it worthy of being on wall that told stories of colonialism. The title of his artwork is : I KNOT THEREFORE I AM . It was done with brush and oils on canvas.

Congratulations Paul, you have a 1000AUD gift voucher to spend on products at RRP.

Then came the runners up. But, before I mention them, let me stop to thank all of you. Anyone who put their hand to paper, picked up an apple pencil or even loaded a description into AI gave some time to the portrait competition, and time is precious. So, thank you. I really am honoured. But, in my mind, and perhaps I am old school now, you have to perform to win. That being said, I hate competition and wouldn’t know what to do if five more bow tie stores cropped up in Sydney…

The runners up are as follows:

Jonathan Newhouse – self portrait pencil on paper.

What a work! Didn’t see it coming. It was exactly what I was looking for, someone looking directly in the mirror to deliver something of themselves onto a piece of paper. I loved, as did others, the gesture of the hand across the torso. There is that intelligence from behind the glasses. There is that respect for the style of bow ties he loves in the detail of his bow tie and knot.

Oliver Watts – self-portrait paper cut out
This one arrived whilst I was sleeping after I shut the website on June 30th – the last day of the sale. Again, unexpected but I was so glad that Oliver did submit as I had been asking him for years. Oliver’s work was in the Archibald this year, so if you want to see some of his work you can still see it hung at the Art Gallery Of NSW.

I really love this piece. Oliver is properly gifted. I have known him for many years, and we once used to sit opposite one another on Radio ABC 702 in the evenings when I would discuss matters of cloth and menswear and he would discuss art with host Dominic Knight.

I won’t use any adjectives to describe the work for fear Oliver will say “that’s not what it is, that’s not what it is at all” in some manner which will remind me ever so slightly of the Lovesong Of J Alfred Prufrock.

The final runner up – I have added a third – is Keiran Davis. Another one that I didn’t see coming. A self portrait in water colour with mixed media in the form of a butterfly bow tie which is made out of yuzen styled paper and mounted to the artwork. Kieran had said that his very first bow tie was one that we made in the direct shape of a butterfly. It is many years ago that we made that shape more regularly and I will make some for the website in the coming months so that you may have access to that shape again.

All runners up receive a 500 AUD voucher at RRP.

In closing, I just want to say this – thank you. My job can be lonely. I am at my best when I have a combination of both loneliness – in which to get my creative work done – and liveliness – when I get to talk and interact with the world of people I love, which includes my customers, even the ones I am currently upset with.

I will try to run another competition soon, maybe before the end of the year. But I also like that it hasn’t happened for a while. You all know how to find me if you need me. I will contact the winners directly to let them know. And now I am back to nursing my ailing body.

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