Three hundred and one budding artists impress the judges of the most recognised portrait prize in the country. Director of Visual Art Mrs Janna Tess takes us through their journey to success…
You may have already heard that the boys of Edgecliff Prep were finalists in the 2017 Archibald Prize, with their portrait of Dr John Vallance, titled Goodbye, Sir! exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 29 July until 22 October 2017.
The portrait, consisting of 11,000 blocks, was painted by all the boys at the School, aged five to twelve, under the guidance of artist-in-residence Jonathan Dalton and Ms Janna Tess.
Anne Ryan, curator of the Archibald Prize, said: ‘I have never seen or heard of an Archibald Prize finalist portrait that was created by such a large group of contributors or by students.’ Speaking about the project, Edgecliff Prep Headmaster Dr Matthew McCloskey said: ‘Some artists go their entire careers without having a work selected as a finalist, so the honour of reaching this stage is not lost on the boys or our community.’
The Archibald portrait is a second pixelated portrait of Dr Vallance. The boys presented the first one at Dr Vallance’s farewell assembly – and then some of the Art Club boys thought they could do better. The idea was to reverse technology by making a painting that looked like a pixelated image on a computer screen, drawing an 11,000 square grid on a wooden board, plotting the 20 colours, sanding and painting the blocks, and then gluing them on.
‘Some artists go their entire careers without having a work selected as a finalist, so the honour of reaching this stage is not lost on the boys or our community.’
Kindergarten and Years 1 and 2 worked mainly on the simple blue background, Years 3 and 4 did the suit and tie, while Years 5 and 6 were responsible for the intricate work on the face. Although the process was simple in theory, it wasn’t easy fitting in the last blocks! They used hand saws to cut the final blocks down to size.
Dr Vallance, who was impressed with the boys’ work, said: ‘When I was Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School I knew I was one of the luckiest men alive. Now you can see why. I am very proud of all three hundred and one artists at Edgecliff. The boys who posed me and took the pictures did a brilliant job, and both portraits were fantastic – this second one, if possible, is even better than the first one. A whole school full of artists – what a magnificent thought!
Goodbye, Sir! has also been selected for the 2017 Archibald Tour, travelling statewide and being exhibited in seven regional galleries.
- Geelong Gallery 27 October – 10 December 2017
- Murray Art Museum, Albury 15 December 2017 – 28 January 2018
- Grafton Regional Gallery 2 February – 18 March 2018
- Casula Powerhouse 23 March – 6 May 2018
- Newcastle Art Gallery 11 May – 24 June 2018
- Goulburn Regional Art Gallery 29 June – 19 August 2018
- Glasshouse Gallery, Port Macquarie 24 August – 7 October 2018