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Matt Doust

White Cocoon
oil on canvas
84 x 60cm
Further information

In 2004, at age 16, Perth-born supermodel Gemma Ward became the youngest fashion model to grace the cover of Vogue. Since then she has modelled for many fashion houses including Prada, Versace, Gucci, Chanel, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein.

Now 23, Ward is also carving a career as an actor. She plays the Queen of the Mermaids in the forthcoming film Pirates of the Caribbean: on stranger tides opposite Johnny Depp; and recently made her stage debut at the Perth Theatre Company in The ugly one, a dark, absurdist comedy about the contemporary obsession with physical beauty.

Doust had wanted to paint Ward for several years. Finally, he was introduced to her last November by a mutual friend and showed her his work. Later that week she came to his studio and they began discussing ideas for a portrait.

‘I was so attracted to the distortion and accentuated characteristics of her face and figure,’ he says. ‘Every feature is distorted and shouldn’t work – but it does. One of my influences is [Austrian painter] Egon Schiele. My work doesn’t look like his but I’m fascinated by the way he distorted people in portraits.’

After trying several different poses, Doust settled on this large, full-face painting. ‘I have simplified my colour palette in order to emphasise other aspects and rely more on an emotional tone for my portrait,’ he says.

‘I always try to create portraits that extend beyond the surface but create a pleasing aesthetic surface so that you spend more time looking at it, giving you the chance to see beyond.’