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Rodney Pople Stelarc triptych

oil and photographic media on linen

Stelarc is one of Australia’s leading artists, best known in Europe and Japan where he has spent much of his life. A performance artist, Stelarc’s work explores the interface between new technologies and the body. In 1980, he developed a ‘third hand’ powered by the body’s own nervous system, and in the 1990s, extended this concept to develop an entire body ‘exoskeleton’. His current project is the ‘extra ear’, as seen here surgically constructed and cell grown on the artist’s arm.

For over 30 years, Rodney Pople has watched Stelarc use his body for art in the same way that a painter uses a canvas. He first met the artist in 1977 in Munich, witnessing one of Stelarc’s full body suspensions. At the time, as now, Pople was struck by the artist’s self-control and ability to keep focussed, rising above pain.

In painting this portrait, the artist has invoked the use of the latest technologies
in a deliberate attempt to echo Stelarc’s own methods of art-making. Pople is fascinated by recent research revealing that Western masters from as early as the 15th century used photographic techniques in their painting process. More recently, artists such as Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter have used similar processes, which for Pople open up new possibilities for the tradition of portrait painting in a contemporary world.

Set in an historic Melbourne house in which an original Picasso painting hangs in the background, this unique portrait of an unconventional artist considers the roles of portraiture, painting and artistic experimentation in the hi-tech culture of the 21st century.

Born in Launceston in 1952, Pople was awarded a Diploma of Fine Arts (Photography) at the Tasmanian School of Art and undertook postgraduate studies in sculpture at the Slade School of Art in London and the New York Studio School. He exhibits regularly in Australia and in China, where he was an Asialink artist-in-residence at the Beijing Art Academy. This is the eighth time that Pople’s work has been selected for the Archibald Prize. His work has also been often represented in the Wynne Prize, where he is a finalist again this year, and the Sulman Prize, which he won in 2008.