Skip to content

Help us improve our prizes database. Contact us if you have more information.

Giles Alexander

The alternative ambassadors (Professors Ross Garnaut & Martin Green)
oil, resin, spray enamel and green-back on linen
200 x 200cm
Further information

Professor Ross Garnaut is best known for his influential climate change report commissioned by the Australian Government. Professor Martin Green is a world leader in photovoltaic research, turning the sun’s energy into electricity.

Giles Alexander’s double portrait of them – his most ambitious work to date – references Holbein’s 16th-century masterpiece The Ambassadors held by London’s National Gallery.
‘Holbein’s painting is an almost life-size allegorical portrait of two men from Henry Tudor’s court,’ says Alexander. ‘I’ve re-contextualised the various allegorical props in Holbein’s painting to address the climate change debate with which my sitters are synonymous. The title hints at both the original painting and the alternative energies being displayed in the place of the proto-scientific instruments of Holbein’s work.’

Alexander’s wife has a PhD in photovoltaics and lectures in sustainable energy at the University of NSW, which is how he met Green. He feels the high profile of the Archibald Prize would be well used documenting the important issue of climate change and the role of alternative energies.

Alexander aspires to early northern European oil painting techniques, but contrasts this with a contemporary plasticity that speaks of consumer culture. The high-gloss resin, applied atop months of painstaking work, acts as filter between the real and hyperreal. ‘It seduces and implicates the spectator, who is reflected in the work.’

Born in London in 1975, Alexander immigrated to Australia in 2000. He studied at the National Art School where he won the Murray Sime Prize for painting. He also won the inaugural MCQ International Art Prize at Sydney’s MCA, the Metro 5 prize in Melbourne in 2007 and was selected for the inaugural Contemporary and Modern Australian Art exhibition in London in 2009. He has his second solo show in Melbourne later this year and will exhibit at the Hong Kong Art Fair.