Tony Costa Wins 2019 Archibald Prize
By Ophelia Lai
On May 10, Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) announced Tony Costa as the winner of the 2019 Archibald Prize for Australian portraiture. The Sydney-based painter was awarded the AUD 100,000 (USD 70,000) prize for his depiction of renowned Chinese-Australian artist Lindy Lee, styled as a Zen Buddhist.
Costa was selected from a pool of 51 finalists by the AGNSW trustees, who adjudicate the annual prize. An accomplished artist, he received the Paddington Art Prize for landscape painting in 2014, and was a finalist for the Archibald Prize in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Lindy Lee herself was nominated for the Archibald in 2002, and was the subject of Bin Xie and Kate Beynon’s entries in 2006 and 2012, respectively. Costa’s Lindy Lee is the first winning portrait of an Asian-Australian figure in the 98-year history of the Archibald Prize.
Costa commented on his sitter: “I was attracted to her wisdom, humility, courage, humour and, above all, her deep focus regarding her art practice. In my portrait of Lindy, I have kept the colour minimal to avoid any visual noise. The challenge for me was to capture the energy of Lindy—the emotional over and above the physical.”
AGNSW director Michael Brand remarked of Costa’s piece: “Its strong, expressive painterliness and minimal palette project a sense of calm and repose, reflective of Lindy Lee’s Zen Buddhist practice.”
AGNSW also announced Indigenous artist Sylvia Ken as the recipient of the AUD 50,000 (USD 35,000) Wynne Prize, which recognizes Australian landscape painting and figurative sculpture. Ken, who is from the Amata community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia, was chosen by the AGNSW trustees for her acrylic-on-linen evocation of the Seven Sisters story, which describes the origins of the Pleiades star cluster.
Darwin-born artist McLean Edwards clinched the AUD 40,000 (USD 28,000) Sir John Sulman Prize for his painting of a single male protagonist, The first girl that knocked on his door. The Sulman prize, which is awarded for the best genre or subject painting, or mural, was guest-adjudicated by 2014 Archibald winner Fiona Lowry, who said that the entry reminded her of “the heartbreak that love can bring . . . and where the end is often in the beginning.”
The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman finalists’ exhibition will open at the AGNSW on May 11 and run to September 8.
Ophelia Lai is ArtAsiaPacific’s reviews editor.
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