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Martin Tighe’s subject, Emma Ayres, is a classically trained musician and a presenter on ABC Classic FM. She had an orchestral career and worked in music therapy before moving into radio in 2001. She still plays the viola.
‘My work habits led to my choice of subject for this year’s Archibald Prize,’ says Tighe. ‘Starting at 6am every morning in my studio, my companion is Emma Ayres on the radio. Her voice is often the first I hear each weekday.
‘This painting was completed in my head before I met Emma. At our first meeting, it was as though she was in tune with my idea. The kaffiyeh scarf she was wearing resonated with me. I also wanted to paint Emma’s hands. Hands are often overlooked or avoided by portrait artists but they are such an expressive, important part of the subject and their work. This portrait is not about a face, but a person. I also felt I wanted to bring Emma to life because, for many, she is someone heard but not seen.
Born in Melbourne in 1965, Tighe is a self-taught artist who began painting at age 30. He has painted many subjects from Australian history and folklore including Ronald Ryan (the last man hanged in Australia) and the story of Picnic at Hanging Rock. He has entered the Archibald Prize on seven occasions; this is the first time he has been selected.