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Wes Walters Molly

oil on canvas

183 x 183 cm

Before becoming a highly sought-after portrait painter and winning the Archibald in 1979, Wes Walters was a successful commercial artist. One of his most recognisable designs was an early Chiko Roll poster, once found in fast-food shops across Australia. For his 1983 Archibald portrait – painted in his signature realist manner – Walters selected one of the most influential personalities in the music industry. Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum (born 1943), a record producer and music journalist, co-created and presented ABC’s iconic Countdown. One of the first music television programs to incorporate music videos, the hugely popular show also afforded Meldrum an international reputation.

In Walter’s portrait, Meldrum is caught mid-sentence – perhaps about to extoll the latest ‘Top 10’ hit – wearing his trademark Stetson hat and boots and framed against a mural of a desert landscape in his Egyptian-themed home. In a Countdown episode filmed later in 1983 in his living room, Meldrum presents a segment seated in the same pose before the same mural.

Meldrum believed that Walters should have received an award for forcing him to sit still and remain silent during the painting process. Meldrum remarked, ‘While I shut up, he did a lot of talking and he was really one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met’. English music legend Elton John purchased the portrait and gifted it to his friend Meldrum, in whose living room it has hung ever since.