“Each year the circumstance and process of doing a portrait changes,” says Jenny Sages, who has been represented in the Archibald Prize on ten previous occasions. “This year I had three miscarriages as it were. Looking around for a new subject, a friend suggested Ros Horin and her husband Joe Skrzynski. As she described them to me I could see Pina Bausch and her Wuppertaler Tanztheater so clearly that on meeting Ros for the first time I already had a strong feeling of what I wanted to do, linking it to the portraits I did of [dancer/choreographers] Keith Bain in 1993 and Meryl Tankard in 1999.”
Horin is a theatre director and dramaturg and the artistic director of Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney. Skrzynski is the chair of the Sydney Opera House Trust and managing director of Castle Harlan Australian Mezzanine Partners, a venture capital firm.
“With Ros’s collaboration, we used the lights and setting of the Griffin Theatre to provide a backdrop for dancing, which is what I asked them to do,” says Sages. I wanted a feeling of movement and lightness so I used oil paint diluted to a consistency of watercolour and I painted almost the same way, taking a deep breath and making each mark count without making too many alterations. I had Ros dance Joe out of the painting to emphasise the sense of movement. The painting is a celebration of a 25-year marriage of two people involved in the cultural life of Sydney.”
Born in Shanghai, Sages arrived in Australia in 1948. She studied at East Sydney Technical College, the Franklin School of Art in New York, then with John Olsen and Mary White. She was highly commended in the 1999 Wynne Prize and in the 1995, 2000 and 2001 Archibald Prize. She is also represented in this year’s Dobell Prize for Drawing and is the subject of Jiawei Shen’s Archibald entry.