Local artists grab national attention
TWO LOCAL painters have caught the attention of judges in three of Australia's most high-profile art prizes.
Lennox Head artist Angus McDonald has been named a finalist in this year's Archibald Prize, while Bangalow painter Robert Ryan has been selected for both the Wynne Prize for landscapes and the Sulman Prize for subject or genre painting.
Mr McDonald has already been an Archibald finalist three times before - in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
But he said the privilege of being picked hadn't waned.
"It's great to be included."
His subject, Western Australian musician Abbe May, was introduced to him by a mutual friend.
"She's a pretty sexy, independent woman," he said.
"I went over to see her perform (in Perth) and did the sitting after the gig at about 3am.
"We're actually really good friends now through the whole process of doing it.
"She's a social activist as well, very enthusiastic about engaging with and confronting the world, and she's very charismatic on stage."
He said a good portrait was not about realism as much as capturing a person's essence.
"Any style is valid; what you're trying to do is get a little piece of the inner person."
Mr Ryan achieved a double first by being chosen as both a Sulman and the Wynne Prize finalist with his paintings Belongil Field and Subdivision #2.
Subdivision #2 has attracted a lot of attention as a "comment" on the controversial West Byron development, but the artist said the painting wasn't a judgment piece.
"It wasn't meant to be for or against anyone's agenda. Most coastal towns are under pressure, and it's not up to me to jump in a soapbox and complain about it - that's just what's happening," he said.
"I don't have the answers."
The artist said he saw himself more as an onlooker in the debate, and admitted he was a little bemused by the ferocious debate going on.
Having moved to the area from South Australia in 1993, he said it would be hypocritical to start complaining about change.
"I'm aware that I moved here, so I'm always very reticent of saying 'Oh, I remember the early 90s, and look how much it's changed'."
"I've struggled more about commenting on the painting than doing it."