Thursday 21 April, 2005
Sydney artist Jason Benjamin has been awarded the Packing Room Prize in conjunction with the 2005 Archibald Prize for his portrait of actor Bill Hunter called Staring down the past.
Jason Benjamin is a great admirer of Bill Hunter. His portrait of the actor came about almost by accident. Benjamin was a finalist in last year's Archibald Prize with a portrait of revered Australian painter John Olsen. Everything I do tends to contrast with what I last did so I was looking for quite a different subject. I approached a young female singer and then several other women but when schedules didn�t work out I was going to abandon the idea of painting a portrait for this year's Archibald. It was a discussion with an actor friend of Benjamin's which led him to Bill Hunter.
In painting Hunter's portrait, Benjamin set about exploring the thoughts currently consuming him rather than trying to produce what he calls 'a tawdry this-is-your-life portrait'. He sees the portrait as fitting into his current body of work and building on previous portraits he has painted of Olsen, actor David Field and artist Tim Storrier.
Benjamin visited Hunter on his remote property in country Victoria, sat and talked with him, took photographs of him, and like a lot of men Benjamin respects realised Bill Hunter was not easy to get to know, that is, past his larrikin exterior. Benjamin says I then like getting out of the way of the subject, shedding ideas and then head towards something wholly intuitive. Capturing a little piece of someone requires both the artist and subject letting their guard down.
Bill Hunter is one of the great stalwarts of Australian film and television since the 1970s. His many credits include Newsfront, Gallipoli, Strictly Ballroom, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriel's Wedding and Tom White. Recently, he was the voice of the dentist in Finding Nemo.
The Packing Room Prize gives the Gallery staff who receive the entries and install the exhibition the chance to vote for their favourite Archibald portrait.
This is the Gallery's head storeman, Steve Peters, 21st Archibald Prize. He has seen it all and maintains that he can select a winner in 30 seconds and this picture was a definite winner said Steve Peters.
This is the 14th Packing Room Prize. Last year's winner was Evert Ploeg for his portrait of Jana Wendt. Jason Benjamin receives $500.
Archibald, Wynne, Sulman and Citigroup Private Bank Australian Photographic Portrait Prizes
The list of finalists selected for all four prizes was announced today. This year Archibald received 852 entries, Wynne 750, Sulman 623 and APPP 644. Please click HERE to view the list.
ARCHIBALD, WYNNE, SULMAN & PHOTOGRAPHIC PRIZES