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Winner: Packing Room Prize 2004
Evert Ploeg caused quite a stir in 1997 when he entered the Archibald Prize for the first time with a portrait of B1 and B2, the Bananas in Pyjamas. The painting sparked a nationwide debate about its eligibility. Ploeg was hung in the Archibald for the first time in 1999 with a portrait of actor Deborah Mailman, painted on jute wool bales, which was voted the People’s Choice winner in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Ploeg left his 2004 Archibald entry to the last minute, and through friends gained the idea and introduction to paint Jana Wendt, one of Australia’s most high-profile television presenters/reporters. ‘She has a very distinct face, a good sculptural face.’ The sitting took place three weeks before the Archibald deadline. ‘I wanted something quite simple, very elegant and chic,’ says the artist.
‘I wanted the feeling that I was just having a conversation with her.’ Since the painting was still slightly wet on the deadline, he put it behind perspex – apposite given that we usually see Wendt on the small screen.
Born in Sydney in 1963, Ploeg is regarded as one of Australia’s most accomplished portraitists. He had his first solo exhibition in 1994. His 1998 portrait of fashion designer Peter Morrissey on brushed aluminium and his 2000 portrait of actor Richard Roxburgh on faux fur were both hung in the Salon des Refusés (as was his portrait of B1 and B2). The Roxburgh portrait won the Salon’s People’s Choice Award and was a finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. Ploeg’s portrait of Paralympian Louise Sauvage, on a gold leaf-shaped panel, was selected for the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ 2000 Sporting Portrait Prize. In 2003 he won the People’s Choice Award in Portrait Artists Australia’s inaugural exhibition with a portrait of flamenco dancer Antonio Vargas and received an honourable mention in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize.