Archibald Prize 2015 education kit

This education kit was produced for the Archibald Prize 2015 and presents children's labels from the exhibition along with questions and activities for students in K-12.

Click on an image for more information (including an artist statement, medium and dimensions) and to view the work in the Art Gallery of NSW prizes database.

What does your face look like when you are in deep thought?

Tony Costa has painted his good friend, and fellow artist, David Fairbairn by using his hands and a palette knife. Tony deliberately limited the colours he used so he could capture David’s thoughtful mood and focus our attention on the picture’s lines, energy and rhythm.

Can you guess which parts of the portrait were painted with Tony’s hands?

Questions and activities

Describe the expression on David Fairbairn's face. What do you think this portrait reveals about him?

Where is the focus of David's gaze? Discuss the impact of placing the figure off-centre on the canvas.

What impact does the elongation of the face have on this portrait? Do you think this image is influenced by cartoons and caricatures? Discuss in class.

Have you ever made a collage?

This collaged portrait is of Dr Dick Quan, a medical doctor and collector of contemporary art. The artist, Jeremy Kibel, used overlapping, ripped paper, simple black outlines and soft washes of paint to capture Dr Quan’s personality.

What characteristics do you think Dr Quan has?

Questions and activities

What makes this portrait different to other works in this year's Archibald Prize?

How many lines do you think it takes to create a likeness of someone? Experiment with different techniques.

Imagine the process the artist followed to create this portrait. Do you think the collage pieces were placed randomly or with consideration from the start? Discuss in class.

Notice how detailed and realistically painted this portrait is.

Juan Ford has painted a self-portrait but has covered his face with a mask. Plastic tapes, dripping paint and leaves twist around his body creating a sense of chaos and confusion that contrasts with the realism of his painting technique.

Can you spot the small picture of Juan poking out of his jacket?

Questions and activities

List the elements in this portrait that you find unusual. Do you think it is odd that the face is concealed? Why do you think the artist has included the small self-portrait taped to his chest?

Look at Juan Ford's body language. Do you think he is struggling?

Imagine what may have happened to Juan just before the moment he has captured in this image. Invent a narrative to accompany the portrait.

Do you have a pet or favourite animal?

Marc Etherington has painted the artist Del Kathryn Barton sitting on a couch in her art studio with her pet staffie Magic Dog. Del is known for her highly decorative artworks, so Marc has depicted Del surrounded by colourful crocheted blankets to emphasise her love of pattern.

What do you think the rest of Del’s studio looks like?

Questions and activities

Describe all the colours, patterns and objects you can see in this painting.

What does this portrait communicate about Del Kathryn Barton? What does it reveal about the relationship between her and her dog?

How would you describe Marc Etherington's painting style?

Do you love listening to stories?

Artist Jessica Le Clerc enjoyed listening to David Hart’s stories while she prepared to paint this portrait of him. Jessica was keen to show David’s connection to the landscape where he grew up, so trees and mountains emerge from his back. David’s father was the famous Australian artist Pro Hart, who often included dragonflies in his paintings.

How many dragonflies can you count in this portrait?

Questions and activities

Analyse Jessica Le Clerc's use of dragonflies in this composition. In the painting, do you think David Hart is aware of their presence? Discuss in class.

Read the artist's statement and evaluate if the title Living inside of stories helps your interpretation of the portrait.

What features distinguish this portrait from others in the Archibald Prize 2015? Evaluate the impact of the blue tones in this painting.

Spot this lively-looking white rabbit.

This painting is of Judith Neilson who is the director of Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery which displays contemporary Chinese art. In this portrait the artist, Jiawei Shen, shows Judith wearing Chinese folk art clothes while the background is painted with traditional Chinese figures. The rabbit is a symbol of contemporary Chinese art so the portrait combines the past with the present.

Which part of the painting stands out the most?

Questions and activities

Imagine what it would be like to hold this rabbit. Describe the relationship between Judith Neilson and the rabbit in this painting.

Read the artist's statement. Find an image of Joseph Beuys' famous performance from 1965 How to explain pictures to a dead hare and compare it to this painting.

The background of this portrait includes details from images that Jiawei Shen has appropriated from the Tang dynasty artist Yan Liben. How successful do you think Jaiwei Shen has been in merging these two paintings into one composition? Discuss in class.

Do you have a favourite colour?

Carla Fletcher has created a lively and bright portrait of celebrated fashion designer Jenny Kee. Jenny is known for her colourful knitwear and use of pattern and she nearly always wears red glasses. Carla has contrasted Jenny’s vibrant outfit with a dark background so she really stands out.

Notice how Jenny has been painted on paper and collaged onto the background.

Questions and activities

What does Jenny Kee's expression and clothing reveal about her personality? Imagine what she would say to you if the portrait could come to life.

Compare the way Carla Fletcher has treated the face and clothing in this painting. Why do you think she approached the portrait in this way?

Describe the surface qualities of this artwork. Do you consider this work to be a painting or a collage? Debate in class.

How do you feel as you stare up at this man?

Nigel Milsom has painted barrister Charles Waterstreet in a giant-like stance. He towers over us with large elongated hands which symbolise how much of his time is dedicated to helping others. Charles not only works as a barrister but is also involved in the film and theatre industry.

How does the lack of colour add to the mood of this portrait?

Questions and activities

Describe the mood of the portrait. As well as the lack of colour, what other elements add to that mood?

What was your first impression of the painting and of its subject, Charles Waterstreet? Read the artist's statement. Have your impressions changed?

Consider the clothes Charles Waterstreet is wearing. What do they contribute to the portrait?

Look at this unusual portrait.

Tsering Hannaford has painted herself as if she is a bust, or small sculpture, on a pedestal. Notice how the side of her neck looks like it is cut from plaster or marble. The title of this portrait translates as ‘old-fashioned object’ so perhaps Tsering is commenting on how fleeting youth and beauty can be and that we should stop worrying what people think of us.

What do you think?

Questions and activities

Where might you see a bust of an idealised historical figure? From what are these usually made? Compare these to Tsering Hannaford's painting. Identify features that are similar or different.

How has Tsering created a psychological portrait that engages the viewer?

Read the artist's statement. Discuss how Tsering's concerns with contemporary feminism and the objectification of women are revealed in this work.

Do you think this painting was made quickly

Kristin Tennyson has created a dynamic portrait of Bob Katter, an MP who is very interested in the Australian cattle industry. Kristin has painted him as if he is an old-fashioned cowboy on a movie poster.

The tones of black and white represent old Western movies and Bob’s clear-cut values, while his bright red tie suggests his energy and flamboyance.

What type of personality do you think Bob has?

Questions and activities

Imitate Bob Katter's facial expression. How does it makes you feel? What does his expression suggest about his character and personality?

What impact does the red spray-painted tie have on the composition and on your impression of Bob? Discuss how clothes and accessories can be used to create a recognisable public image.

Imagine this was a poster for a cowboy film and invent a title for the film.