I feel bad bagging out the Archibald because firstly everyone does it, and secondly John McDonald has already done it pretty well and I’m still recovering from agreeing with him on something. So instead I’m going to bag out the Wynne Prize.
There are 39 finalists in this year’s Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
I liked one. This one.
Constructed from paper pulp, timber, cement and paint, Tim Kyle’s Gunther at ease is a gutsy, breathing sculpture. Notwithstanding the fact that the naked Gunther confused me terribly by having nipples but no penis, it was the only piece that brought me to a standstill. The picture doesn’t give you any idea of the size of the work which is enormous and dominates the wing of the gallery its in. That’s a good thing, because the other 38 finalists are blander than a bowl full of porridge in a nursing home. In fact, that’s exactly what the Wynne was like this year. Porridge. Boring, beige and stodgy. I wanted to like Tim Storrier’s The Jadeburg (which my friend Pete loved) but to me it fell flat, Yukultji Napangati’s Untitled failed to impress despite me almost always liking her stuff, and Stephen Pong’s Broken Well was just plain creepy. The rest weren’t even worth discussing. Perhaps I was in a bad mood that day.
The Sir John Sulman was a bit the same in that it lacked anything earth shattering, but at least the subjects were more challenging. Plus, there was a painting of a dog (Jeremy Kibel’s Portrait of Millie) and I’m a sucker for anything fluffy. If that makes me a philistine, so be it. At least it made up for the dinosaur painting. I’ve never understood the attraction of big lizards.
As for the Archy, it was better than I expected. Mike Barnard’s You Beautiful Fighter is still my sentimental favourite, but Wendy Sharpe, Heidi Yardley and Anh Do all gave me pause. Tim Maguire’s portrait of Cate Blanchett is as ethereal as the actress herself, and David Griggs managed to get a painting of a sex worker deep-throating a big black dildo past the judges, so I guess all is as it should be in Australian art.
Perhaps the most interesting exercise was reading the didactic panels to see what the artists had to say about their work. Usually I’m a voracious and unashamed reader of the children’s versions because they’re quicker and less obnoxious, but I decided to stretch myself and go the adult content. This was my favourite:
Jesus Christ, has anyone ever provided a better (and by ‘better’ I mean ‘what a load of shit’) justification for wanting to paint themselves snogging someone they fancy? Artists…what are they like?
The Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prize
Art Gallery of NSW
Until 28 September 2014.