We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Blak Douglas wins Archibald Prize 2022 for portrait of artist Karla Dickens in the Lismore floods

13 May 2022

A person stands calf-deep in water holding a bucket in each hand.

Winner Archibald Prize 2022, Blak Douglas Moby Dickens (detail), synthetic polymer paint on linen, 300 x 200 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Mim Stirling

Blak Douglas, a Sydney-based artist with Dhungatti heritage, has won the Archibald Prize 2022 and $100,000 for his portrait of artist Karla Dickens, titled Moby Dickens.

A five-time Archibald Prize finalist, Douglas painted his good friend, Wiradjuri woman Dickens for Australia’s most-loved portrait award. With his win Douglas becomes the second Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald Prize in 101 years after Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira won in 2020, and Moby Dickens is the first time a portrait of an Aboriginal woman has won the prize.

Douglas was thrilled when Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand delivered the news that Moby Dickens – which at 3m x 2m is the largest Archibald painting in this year’s exhibition – had won this year’s Archibald Prize.

 'I’m elated to be the first New South Wales First Nations artist to have won with a painting of a New South Wales First Nations artist. It’s a major historic win,' he said.

‘Karla is my favourite female First Nations artist, we are dear friends, we are birds of a feather when it comes to our sentiment in art, and I really admire the way she pieces together her work.

'It just happens that I was there in Lismore immediately after the first deluge in February and saw the shock and horror on people’s faces. Karla had just reached a pivotal point in her career and almost immediately the flood catastrophe happened. So, when she should have ordinarily been excited about where her career was going, she was harbouring three families in Lismore as part of her own rescue mission.’

Douglas – who was born Adam Hill – entered the Archibald Prize each year from 2015 to 2020, all with portraits of Indigenous Australian sitters, and was selected as a finalist in 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

‘I’m making up for lost ground in the failure to memorialise First Nations people,’ he said. ‘In the past I’ve considered each entry to the Archibald Prize a memorial to that individual and that’s why I only paint First Nations people.’

Douglas was also a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 2009. Douglas' works are held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), City of Sydney and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Douglas depicted Dickens in the recent floods in her hometown of Lismore in northern New South Wales which devastated her community.

Dickens, a Wiradjuri artist who lives and works on Bundjalung Country in Lismore, is known for bringing a black humour to her unflinching interrogation of subjects such as race, gender and injustice, revealing her often raw pain. Dickens is one of nine artists who have been commissioned to produce a site-specific work as part of the Sydney Modern Project. Her commissioned work, a panel depicting hooded figures, is a powerful consideration of the continuing legacies of colonialism and patriarchy. It will be installed in the niche above the front door of the Art Gallery’s historic building later this year.

‘I am completely over the moon for my dear friend, brother in art and early morning confidant Blak Douglas,' Dickens said. ‘I love this talented man ... Adam is so deserving for all the praise and opportunitywinning the Archibald will deliver.

‘The painting – Moby Dickens – is a grumpy white sperm whale in muddy water ready to rip the leg off any fool with a harpoon who dares come too close. His painting not only has an incredible likeness to me and my mood in the last three months, but this killer work pays homage to each and every person who has found themselves knee deep in mud, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially after the natural disaster that has destroyed so many lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW and beyond.

‘Let art be our witness – let Blak Douglas be acknowledged for the Dhungatti deadly visionary he is. Your old stand with you today.’

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Douglas was overwhelmed and incredibly humbled when he took his phone call.

‘My congratulations to Blak whose painting is a powerful portrait. It is a spirited likeness, captured at a hugely challenging time for Karla and her local community,’ Brand said.

The Archibald Prize winner is decided by the Art Gallery’s Board of Trustees. Board president David Gonski said, ‘I wholeheartedly congratulate all finalists in the 2022 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes. This year the trustees were most impressed with the high standard of works from which to select finalists and winners, and our decision about this Archibald Prize winner was unanimous.’

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the Young Archie competition and the Archibald Prize regional tour are all generously supported by presenting partner ANZ.

Mark Whelan, Group Executive, Institutional at ANZ, was delighted to hear that Douglas had been selected as the winner of the Archibald Prize 2022. Whelan said: ‘To be awarded the Archibald Prize is a significant achievement and we congratulate Blak Douglas. The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s most distinguished and iconic awards, which showcases the depth of Australia’s artistic talent and makes it accessible to all of us. We are proud to have supported this iconic exhibition for thirteen years. 

Highly commended – Archibald Prize

This year a highly commended honour was awarded to Sydney artist Jude Rae for her portrait of scientist, engineer and inventor Dr Saul Griffith. Rae is also a finalist in this year’s Wynne Prize with her landscape The white fig (Ficus cirens), Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

Wynne Prize 2022

A landscape of trees and ferns among rocks.

Winner Wynne Prize 2022, Nicholas Harding Eora, oil on linen, 196.5 x 374.8 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Mim Stirling

Nicholas Harding wins the Wynne Prize 2022 for Eora landscape

Renowned Australian painter Nicholas Harding has won the Wynne Prize 2022 for his landscape Eora.

The Wynne Prize is Australia’s oldest art prize and is awarded annually for 'the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists’.

This is Harding’s 9th time as a Wynne finalist – he also exhibited in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017. He is also a 19-time Archibald finalist between 1994 and 2020, winning the Archibald in 2001 with John Bell as King Lear and the People's Choice in 2005 with Bob's daily swim. He's also a 3-time Sulman finalist (1980, 2003, 2007), and won the Dobell Prize for Drawing in 2001.

Harding said his painting is a confluence of landscape around Narrabeen Lakes on Sydney’s northern beaches and Sailors Bay walk on Sydney Harbour.

‘‘Eora’ was the word used by Aboriginal people of Sydney to describe where they came from when asked by the British invaders what the place of first settlement was called,’ he said.

‘My favoured pandanus trees are harbingers for the cabbage palms, while the ferns are influenced by our courtyard ferns that were shadowed by a neighbour’s eucalypt but perished when exposed to the sun’s heat after the tree was removed. Leafless fern trunks haunt Eora as warnings for the consequences of land-clearing. The locations observed for this landscape are now small, dwindling pockets amongst suburban developments. The dragonflies, which are not easy to find, are symbols of change, transformation, adaptability and self-realisation.

Eora stands as a memorial to how extraordinary the landscape must have been before white people got here and invaded the place and encroached on the landscape itself.’

Highly commended – Wynne Prize

This year two highly commended honours were awarded to Lucy Culliton for her painting Mooresprings, a good season, and Juz Kitson for her sculpture An unwavering truth. She walks in beauty, of the night and all that’s best of dark and bright. In memory of the wildfires.

Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prize – Wynne Prize

Wynne Prize 2022 finalist Sally Scales has been awarded the 2022 Roberts Family Prize for her work Wati Tjakura.

Finalists in the Wynne Prize are eligible for the Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prize, an annual prize of $10,000 awarded to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artist. Sally, a Pitjantjatjara woman from Pipalyatjara in the far west of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in remote South Australia, is the fifth recipient of the prize, which was established in 2018.

Sulman Prize 2022

A demon and a warrior in battle.

Winner Sulman Prize 2022, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro Raiko and Shuten-dōji, acrylic gouache, jute and tape on helicopter shell, 159.5 x 120 cm © the artist, image © AGNSW, Mim Stirling

Collaborative duo Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro wins the Sulman Prize 2022

Collaborative duo Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro have won the Sulman Prize 2022 with their work Raiko and Shuten-dōji, a depiction of the fight between Japanese warrior Raiko and the demon Shuten-dōji painted on the fuselage of a Vietnam War–era helicopter.

The pair, who are based in the Blue Mountains, have worked together since 2001 and are the first collaborative duo to win the Sulman Prize. On hearing that Raiko and Shuten-dōji, had been awarded the Sulman Prize 2022, Healy and Cordeiro said they were ‘ecstatic’ to win.

'It’s such a beautiful exhibition, we are really proud to be part of that show,’ they said.

The Sulman Prize, valued at $40,000, is awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist and is judged by a guest artist each year. This year’s Sulman Prize judge was artist Joan Ross, who selected 21 finalists.

About the winning work, Ross said: ‘I immediately felt the dynamism of this work, its curved metal surface, its physical quality and beauty, its conceptual nature. I really loved it – I couldn’t go past it.’

Japanese folk design is often painted on kites, however Healy and Cordeiro – known for creating works with a playful sense of humour and using found objects – painted Raiko and Shuten-dōji on the fuselage of a Vietnam War–era helicopter.

‘It’s actually an army surplus helicopter from the Australian army,’ they said. ‘In our work we use vehicles as a sign or symbol, so a lot of our work does think about processes, systems and vehicles are part of a human system that we are interested in,’ they said. ‘It is the reverse evolution: the way that we’ve handled this piece of helicopter panel is about an aeroplane or helicopter taking you to another place, or something that will take you elsewhere. So we’ve painted upon the surface and turned it back into a kite.

‘This whole body of work was made in isolation so we thought about the kite as being a drop pin, something that locates you in the here and now, unlike an aeroplane which might take you elsewhere, the kite actually located you right where you are standing.’

All finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2022 will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW from 14 June to August 2022.

Archibald Prize 2022 will travel to six venues in Victoria and regional New South Wales, offering audiences outside Sydney the opportunity to see the finalists in the Archibald Prize 2022:

Bunjil Place, Melbourne | 3 September – 16 October 2022
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre | 22 October – 4 December 2022
Grafton Regional Gallery | 17 December 2022 – 29 January 2023
Wagga Wagga Art Gallery | 10 February – 26 March 2023
Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie | 8 April – 21 May 2023
Western Plains Cultural Centre | 3 June – 30 July 2023

To keep up to date with all things Archibald and to buy tickets, please visit the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2022 exhibition page.

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