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

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Carolyn McKay Creecy Bruce Spence

oil on canvas

251 x 97cm

Bruce Spence is an acclaimed Australian actor who has worked in theatre and in films such as Stork, Newsfront, The cars that ate Paris, Mad Max II and III, and more recently, Matrix revolutions and Peter Pan.

‘I chose him because he’s such an icon of Australian theatre and film and because I’ve always loved his face,’ says Carolyn McKay Creecy. ‘I knew it was a face I would enjoy painting. In fact his whole physical presence is incredibly expressive.’ She has emphasised this by making the portrait larger than life. Spence is just under 2 metres tall. The painting is half a metre taller.

It was the first time McKay Creecy had painted someone she didn’t know, and admits she was very nervous. But she found that Spence was approachable and incredibly supportive. ‘He’s been an artist himself and went to art school. So he enjoyed the long journey and made a lot of constructive criticism throughout the process.’

Spence did the first sitting in McKay Creecy’s studio. McKay Creecy then visited the actor on his rural property. She did two quite large portraits of him ‘with only a certain amount of success’ and admits she was feeling fairly frustrated. Then she started this portrait which flowed and was completed in two weeks.

Born in Newcastle in 1960, McKay Creecy graduated from the University of NSW in 1984 and has since completed a number of other courses. In 2002 she had a solo show at James Harvey Gallery. Since 1996, she has had work in many group exhibitions including 10 × 10 × 10 Women’s visions at Mosman Art Gallery. She has been selected for several major exhibitions such as the 2004 John Glover Art Prize in Tasmania, The Fisher’s Ghost Art Award at Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery in 2002 and 2003, and the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize at the South Australian Museum in 2003. She has had portraits in the Portia Geach Memorial Award on three occasions, was an Archibald finalist in 1999 and was also in the Salon des Refusés in 1999 and 2000. Awards include the Cowra Merit Award in 2004, Waverley Drawing Prizes in 1997 and 2002, and the Waverley Viewers’ Choice in 1997.