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Winner: People's Choice 2007
George Ellis is a conductor and musical director. As the dynamic director of the Sydney Opera House Babies Proms Series his young fans know him as ‘Big G’. His many credits range from musical director of the new Australian musical The adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, to conducting the Sydney Symphony at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
The idea of painting Ellis came about while Evert Ploeg was working on a recent portrait commission. His client suggested the conductor when Evert confirmed he hadn’t yet decided on a subject. ‘My ears pricked up’, says Ploeg. ‘One thing I love painting is hands; I like their landscape and how they can convey a sense of character. When George’s name was mentioned I was immediately interested because conducting is a profession where you communicate through hand and arm movements. I knew it would make a dynamic portrait.’
Ploeg decided on a large-scale portrait because of the big sound that Ellis conducts. ‘I wanted to convey that enormity, to create that sense of sound and drama. I have used very distinctive composition lines and brushwork in the background to emphasise this. If you follow George’s hand movements in the portrait you can trace a figure eight lying on its side. I think that’s why the painting has a melody about it.’
Born 1963 in Sydney, Ploeg is a highly acclaimed portrait artist. His awards include the Archibald People’s Choice in Sydney and Melbourne (1999) with a portrait of Deborah Mailman and Packing Room Prize (2004) for his portrait of Jana Wendt and the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize (2005). The same year his work was selected for show at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC and he received a commendation at the inaugural Berkelouw Portrait Prize. His work is represented in the collections of the University of Melbourne, the ABC and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.