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Bill Wright is an artist and curator. He was assistant director at the Art Gallery of NSW from 1982 to 1991, artistic director of the 4th Biennale of Sydney in 1982 and curatorial director at Sydney’s Sherman Galleries from 1992 to 2005. He has an Order of Australia (AM) for services to art.
‘I’ve known Bill for about ten years,’ says Jasper Knight. ‘Choosing a subject for the Archibald can be quite a cynical exercise so it was nice to paint someone
I know. Although he is such a big legend in the arts world, he is so humble, relaxed and fun to be around, and a very generous person.’
Knight is known for his bold mixed media works. Constructed out of plywood, Perspex, masonite and various recycled materials, he uses enamel paint to create an interesting tension between the painting and sculptural aspects of the work.
This is his fifth portrait in the Archibald Prize – and, he believes, the best. ‘I looked back over my previous entries and thought that the portrait of Richard Gill in 2005 stood out because it was a lot more surface heavy with different textures, which gave the face a lot of character. So with this one I wanted to use old signs. There’s an ‘alcohol not to be consumed’ sign next to his right shoulder, a road sign near his left ear and eye, and a cash converter sign near his mouth that gives it a pinky softness.
‘Normally my portraits are quite stylised, two-dimensional and illustrative but this one is softer and a bit more painterly. Bill has got quite an elegant, soft face and I wanted to convey that. I like warts-and-all portraiture so I wanted to capture his trademark facial expression without making him look too grumpy, so I have his right eye brow raised as if lost in thought.’
Born in Sydney in 1978, Knight has a Bachelor of Arts (Electronic and Temporal Art) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney and a Master of Arts (Painting and Drawing) from the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW. He won the 2008 Mosman Art Prize and the 2005 Art on the Rocks Prize for Emerging Artists. He has also been a two-time finalist in both the Wynne Prize and the Blake Prize for Religious Art.