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McKenzie has admired McLean Edwards’ work for many years and they became good friends when they started showing at the same gallery in Sydney. Edwards is also a finalist in this year’s Archibald Prize with a portrait of their art dealer Martin Browne and was represented last year with a portrait of Cate Blanchett and family.
Asked about his choice of subject, McKenzie says that Edwards ‘has got a great face first of all. But it’s because I really like his work more than anything. McLean’s work is unique. I really admire artists who have a unique voice. So many painters emulate other artists but McLean is totally out there on his own. The portrait is about admiring painters who are individuals and who are bold enough to swim against the tide’.
The portrait was painted in Edwards’ studio. ‘It’s such a distinctive place there was no other choice’, says McKenzie. ‘Who he is, is so wrapped up in where he works. I tried to capture something of that space and how pieces of McLean and McLean’s work are scattered on the floor. I wanted to get that look that he has when he looks away, deep in thought, thinking about who knows what?’
Born in Sydney in 1971, McKenzie is known for his evocative landscapes and luminous painting technique. He has travelled widely and currently exhibits in Sydney, Melbourne and London. His work is collected in London, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Hong Kong and Australia. He was a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 2005 and 2006 and now 2007. This is his first time in the Archibald Prize.