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This is only the third portrait that Jasper Knight has painted – and the third to be hung in the Archibald Prize. Knight was also a finalist in 2005 and 2006 with portraits of his grandfather, Sir Harold Knight, and conductor Richard Gill.
Bob Carr was premier of NSW for ten years until he retired from politics in 2005. In 1996, he purchased Knight’s year 12 major work from the Artexpress exhibition for the premier’s office. Since then, Carr has maintained an interest in Knight’s career, agreeing to meet with him for afternoon tea every few years.
Knight regularly uses recycled materials in his mixed media works. For this portrait, he assembled his construction of perspex and masonite so that the primary-coloured perspex would fall on Carr’s face. Thus, the yellow acts as a highlight on the forehead and around the eyes, the blue becomes the shadow for the right side of the face and ear, and the red the lips and chin. The focal point of the painting is ‘the right eye where the materials meet’, says Knight. ‘It’s almost as if Mr Carr is looking at you and at the same time looking past you. Combined with a trademark half-smile and raised eyebrow, it asks the question, is he looking sternly at the viewer or smiling? I think the answer is a little bit of both.’
Knight has used the constructed background and enamel paint ‘to create an interesting surface and to pose questions about the relationship between the abstract and the figurative and, more importantly, between sculpture and painting’.
Born in Sydney in 1978, Knight is the recipient of the 2006 Freedman Foundation Scholarship and a 2005 Australia Council New Work grant. He won the 2005 Art on the Rocks Prize for emerging artists and has been a finalist in the Wynne Prize, ABN-AMRO Prize, Mosman Art Prize and Blake Prize for Religious Art as well as the Archibald.