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Archibald artworks on parenting

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By the Art Gallery of NSW
AGNSW prizes Natasha Bieniek Waiting for Arden, from Archibald Prize 2019

AGNSW prizes Natasha Bieniek Waiting for Arden, from Archibald Prize 2019

‘I felt compelled to use myself as a subject because I was completely consumed within my own world. It reflects a moment in time when I was feeling particularly uncomfortable and apprehensive about what I was about to face. Although I already felt immense love for my baby, I had anxieties about becoming a mother and how my ability to make art would be called into question. Painting was my life. I wondered how my integrity as an artist might be scrutinised. I feared that my painting would not be looked at beyond the scope of motherhood.’

‘There’s an incredible amount of pressure for modern women to “do it all”. I produced much of this painting when Arden was just weeks old. Although the frantic juggle is still omnipresent, having a baby has completely enriched my life in all its chaotic glory. It’s the beautiful little moments that make it all worthwhile.’

Natasha Bieniek 2019, who depicted herself when she was 36 weeks pregnant

AGNSW prizes Katherine Edney Self-portrait with Ariel, from Archibald Prize 2019

AGNSW prizes Katherine Edney Self-portrait with Ariel, from Archibald Prize 2019

‘I had been documenting my body’s changes throughout my pregnancy, as I was in awe of the strength of the female body and its extraordinary capabilities. I wanted to capture this physical and psychological transformation, while also revealing my vulnerability. I have always battled migraines and anxiety and for the first time I had never felt better. It was my desire to portray this ethereal state of tranquillity and overwhelming sense of calm and wellness. I chose to capture this private moment on a relatively small scale, so that the work could remain intimate for the viewer.’

Katherine Edney 2019, who depicted herself when she 37 weeks pregnant

AGNSW prizes Jonathan Dalton Sally. And her boys., from Archibald Prize 2019

AGNSW prizes Jonathan Dalton Sally. And her boys., from Archibald Prize 2019

‘Sally is a fairly new parent. In this portrait, I wanted her to be front and centre as an artist but to acknowledge how difficult that can be when there is so much pressure to be a mother first and an artist second. Her partner, Guy Maestri, is also an incredible artist but by resigning him to the shadowy background with baby on hip – a role all too frequently assigned to the mother – I hoped to underscore and contrast that historical sentiment of women as mere set dressing.’

Jonathan Dalton 2019, who painted Sally Anderson

AGNSW prizes Loribelle Spirovski Meg and Amos (and Art), from Archibald Prize 2019

AGNSW prizes Loribelle Spirovski Meg and Amos (and Art), from Archibald Prize 2019

‘When we met at her home in Brisbane, I was bowled over by her down-to-earth nature and wicked sense of humour. However, it was her love for her baby Amos and dog Art that endeared me to her the most. When Meg started singing to Amos, a totally improvised “baby commentary” on what was happening, I felt I was witness to an incredible moment of intimacy and depth that absolutely had to be captured in a painting.’

Loribelle Spirovski 2019, who painted Megan Washington

AGNSW prizes Del Kathryn Barton You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella, from Archibald Prize 2008

AGNSW prizes Del Kathryn Barton You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella, from Archibald Prize 2008

‘This painting celebrates the love I have for my two children and how my relationship with them has radically informed and indeed transformed my understanding of who I am ... Both my children have taken my world by storm and very little compares to the devotion I feel for them both. The intensity of this emotion is not something that I could have prepared myself for.’

Del Kathryn Barton 2008, who won the Archibald Prize with this self-portrait with her children

AGNSW prizes Vanessa Stockard Self-portrait as new mum, from Archibald Prize 2017

AGNSW prizes Vanessa Stockard Self-portrait as new mum, from Archibald Prize 2017

‘Before and after the birth of my beautiful daughter, I seemingly read every book, blog and web page available to help prepare myself for a newborn. In reality, none of this could capture the all-consuming shock of having a baby, and her incredible beauty.’

Vanessa Stockard 2017, who painted this self-portrait just after the birth of her first child.

AGNSW prizes Vanessa Stockard Self-portrait, from Archibald Prize 2018

AGNSW prizes Vanessa Stockard Self-portrait, from Archibald Prize 2018

‘I have become assertive as a mother, for I refuse to be under the reign of a toddler without the gift of reason or speech. I have graduated with honours from postnatal depression and I can speak fluent gibberish.’

Vanessa Stockard 2018, who painted a second self-portrait one year after birth

AGNSW prizes Marcus  Callum Portrait of a seated woman, from Archibald Prize 2011

AGNSW prizes Marcus Callum Portrait of a seated woman, from Archibald Prize 2011

‘For most of the painting I was fortunate to have my model present. After the birth of Elvis however, the sittings became understandably less frequent. It may be an art cliché, but I was truly trying to capture the soul of my sitter. I wanted to convey a contemplative strength but also a great beauty.’

Marcus Callum 2011, who began painting this portrait of his partner whilst she was heavily pregnant and completed it after she gave birth to their son.

AGNSW prizes Jessica Ashton Self-portrait as a clown, from Archibald Prize 2017

AGNSW prizes Jessica Ashton Self-portrait as a clown, from Archibald Prize 2017

‘It was painted with mixed emotions, which I hoped to somehow capture. I wear my daughter’s tutu around my neck and feel like a clown. I am amused at myself and the chaos of life, juggling an artistic career, motherhood, teaching and everything else in between. There are so many parts to play, so many different costumes one must wear, but I love the path I have chosen.’

Jessica Ashton 2017, who painted this self-portrait after discovering she was pregnant with her second child.

AGNSW prizes Rebecca Hastings The onesie, from Archibald Prize 2014

AGNSW prizes Rebecca Hastings The onesie, from Archibald Prize 2014

‘In this self-portrait I mock my own inadequacies as a mother and lament the struggle to also be an artist ... As a mother of two children I find myself constantly beset by guilt, frustration and anxiety. I consider myself ill-equipped and a bit of a joke when it comes to meeting the lofty, idealistic heights of mummy perfection. This painting is part of a broader exploration of themes relating to “maternal ambivalence”, reflecting my desire to subvert the romantic ideal of motherhood, and chart the unacknowledged, darker side of the complex and contradictory experiences that come with having children.’

Rebecca Hastings 2014, who depicted herself in a onesie

AGNSW prizes Michael Zavros Bad dad, from Archibald Prize 2013

AGNSW prizes Michael Zavros Bad dad, from Archibald Prize 2013

‘The colour-saturated, abandoned inflatable pool toys serve as a portrait of my three children in their absence; missing but always with me, like the perfect pop song you can’t get out of your head, the one with the happy riff but sad lyrics. I need them more than they need me.’

Michael Zavros 2013, who painted this self-portrait after being away from home

AGNSW prizes Prudence Flint Baby, from Archibald Prize 2015

AGNSW prizes Prudence Flint Baby, from Archibald Prize 2015

‘I wanted to paint Urszula with baby to show how the presence of motherhood is in our lives, whatever choices we make, like a parallel world. The painting began as a tiny sketch and I tried to keep it true to the tension between the monstrous and the tender. It felt like a delicate radiation area between beauty and repulsion that was tricky to paint.’

Prudence Flint 2015, who painted a friend who is NOT a mother

AGNSW prizes Michael Peck Self-portrait in the image of my son, from Archibald Prize 2012

AGNSW prizes Michael Peck Self-portrait in the image of my son, from Archibald Prize 2012

‘The warm orange glow is the colour by which I remember my childhood in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, where my brothers and I would play war games in our neighbours’ yards. Inspired by films, we would dress up in army surplus gear and paint our faces. We’d dig bunkers, make guns from old timber scraps and run around pretending to be heroes. Now that I am in my 30s I notice the ways in which my own children play similar games and I wonder why children can be so fascinated by war.’

Michael Peck 2012, who titled his work 'Self-portrait in the image of my son'

AGNSW prizes Daniel Henderson Lily-Rose, from Archibald Prize 2007

AGNSW prizes Daniel Henderson Lily-Rose, from Archibald Prize 2007

‘Ever since her birth I have wanted to create something memorable in her name. I feel as if life tossed me a lifejacket in the storm when she was born and I wanted to push my ability to the limit with this painting and go beyond the familiar to somewhere new. I also want to convey to people my wish that they should listen with sensitivity to what our children have to say, and not only with their ears.’

David Henderson 2007, who painted his daughter Lily-Rose

AGNSW prizes Del Kathryn Barton Mother (a portrait of Cate), from Archibald Prize 2011

AGNSW prizes Del Kathryn Barton Mother (a portrait of Cate), from Archibald Prize 2011

‘I have configured the boys (in relation to Cate) in an attempt to describe both the depth of their coexistence and individual wholeness. Filaments of ribbons gently weave the figures together within some kind of resonance. There is the utterly profound synergy and interconnection that a mother and her children have on one level; and on another, four autonomous energies and lives.’

Del Kathryn Barton 2011, who painted Cate Blanchette with her children Dash, Roman and Iggy

AGNSW prizes McLean Edwards Cate Blanchett and family, from Archibald Prize 2006

AGNSW prizes McLean Edwards Cate Blanchett and family, from Archibald Prize 2006

‘You meet some husbands and wives and realise that they have a creative bond as well as a familial one and it was clear to me that Cate and Andrew rely on each other profoundly. They are an awesome functioning little unit ... Cate pulled out the poster paints and set the kids up on the kitchen table and I painted with them and had cookies and milk. It was really good fun.’

McLean Edwards 2006, who painted Cate Blanchette with her partner Andrew Upton and their children

AGNSW prizes Martine Emdur Claudia Karvan, Interior, from Archibald Prize 2003

AGNSW prizes Martine Emdur Claudia Karvan, Interior, from Archibald Prize 2003

‘Although completely smitten and consumed by her new role as a mother, Claudia also manages to pursue a successful career in a notoriously difficult industry. Her talent, passion and ability to juggle these demands with such grace is an inspiration.’

Martine Emdur 2003, who painted Claudia Karvan with her partner Jeremy Sparks and their child Audrey