By Kat Wong in Sydney
Artist Jaq Grantford has won the Archibald People’s Choice award with her portrait of “Play School” stalwart Noni Hazlehurst.
The winning work, titled “Through the Window”, depicts the 69-year-old actor and director staring at the viewer through fogged glass.
Inspired by Hazlehurst’s two-decade run as a presenter on ABC kids’ television show “Play School”, Grantford said she wanted to capture the warmth and passion the actor emanated.
“She’s a brilliant, brilliant actor, and a brilliant presenter, of course, we all love her in ‘Play School’,” she said while accepting her award at the Art Gallery of NSW on Wednesday.
“I was very excited to be able to get that nod to ‘Play School’ through the windows.
“When I was a kid I used to love guessing which window they would look through. And then when my kids were kids, I used to also love guessing.”
The portrait beat 56 other entries for the $5000 prize.
While Hazlehurst could not attend the announcement, she said she was thrilled for Grantford.
“Her portraits are remarkable, not only for their verisimilitude but also for her unique and thoughtful storytelling ability,” she said in a statement.
“There is a warmth about her work which evokes a strong connection between the artist, the subject and the viewer.”
“Through the Window” is not Grantford and Hazlehurst’s first collaboration.
Grantford painted the Australian TV icon in 2017 for a portrait titled “The Story Teller”, which was later acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
“She has a real magic about her,” Grantford said.
“To try to capture Noni on canvas was an absolute joy.”
While the premier Archibald prize and its sister award the Sulman are judged by trustees at the Art Gallery of NSW, the People’s Choice award is chosen by patrons who visit the exhibition during its opening two months.
This year’s prize was the result of votes cast by 15,542 visitors.
In 2023, the Archibald Prize went to 29-year-old Julia Gutman whose multimedia portrait of singer-songwriter Montaigne took the $100,000 award.
Zaachariaha Fielding won the $50,000 Wynne Prize for landscape art with an acrylic-on-linen work titled “Inma”.
The $40,000 Sulman Prize, which goes to the best subject or genre painting, went to Doris Bush Nungarrayi for her acrylic-on-linen work “Mamunya ngalyananyi” (monster coming).
The Packing Room Prize winner – chosen by gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries – went to Andrea Huelin, who took out the $3000 award with her eccentric portrait of comedian Cal Wilson.
Eight-year-old Phoebe Raft, nine-year-old Toby Lopata, Jasmine Guy, 15, and 17-year-old Lily Hobbs took out the Young Archies.
For the first time in 2023, there were more works by women (30) than men (27) selected as Archibald finalists.
There were also more entries than ever from Aboriginal artists, with 101 in total and 38 selected as finalists, including for the Wynne and Sulman prizes.
The Archibald finalists’ paintings will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW until September 3 before touring various regional galleries until August 2024.
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