As far as disruptions to life go, the minor house fire Trentham artist Rose Wilson and her family endured this year was nothing compared to last week’s Archibald bombshell.
“Very daunting and very overwhelming” was how Rose described the news that she had been shortlisted for this year’s Archibald Prize; considered Australia’s most prestigious art award. Not to mention the consequent attention.
“I’m just a humble painter, really. I just enjoy what I do,” she said.
Rose’s painting of Kyneton silversmith Dan Flynn was chosen as one of 41 finalists out of 839 portraits of distinguished men and women of art, letters, science and politics.
Dan and his brother John are renowned for their silver work, which can be found in such places as Buckingham Palace, the White House and the Vatican.
But for Rose, it was Dan’s cheeky wit that she wanted to celebrate.
“He’s a man of few words, Mr Flynn, but he has an amazing wit and humour about him – even though I painted him like and80-year-old cane farmer,” she laughed.
“He was very entertained by it when he saw it and he buckled over with laughter – he loved it.
“He appreciated it, warts and all.”
Rose confessed she probably wouldn’t gain many commissions out of the portrait.
“I don’t paint a pretty portrait,” she said.
“It’s more about the look, the cheekiness, the charisma, and the connection the painting has with the viewer.”
For the Archibald judges, the technique Rose used for the painting may have played a part in her recognition, too.
For Brother of John, Rose did away with the brushes and painted by hand.
“I lived in an Aboriginal community in east Arnhem Land for a few years and living there gave me that lovely technique of bringing something to life with my hands,” she said.
“The paint comes directly from the tube into my hands – and that’s how mistakes happen. Mistakes work for me, Mr Flynn is basically a face full of mistakes.”
On the eve of the Archibald announcement, Rose paid tribute to her Trentham contemporaries.
She is part of a trio of Trentham artists who paint together and encourage each other.
Rose, David Bryant and Louise Otten have spent the past three years entering their work into some of the Australia’s most coveted art prizes, and each time at least one of them has been recognised in some capacity.
As well as this year’s Archibald short-listing, Rose has in the past been selected for the James Farrell Self Portrait Award, the Salon des Refusés exhibition and was a finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.
She said that in a twist of fate she owed it to the house fire for this latest accolade.
Rose planned to enter a portrait of the two Flynn brothers together, but the fire promtly put that work on hold, so she sent the single portrait instead.
“The fire came and I ran out of time, and even this one was still wet when it went in the frame,” she said.
The winner of the Archibald Prize, and the accompanying $75,000, will be announced today.