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Jun Chen Mao's last dancer – Li Cunxin

oil on canvas

165 x 112.5 cm

Last year, Jun Chen was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint Li Cunxin, the Chinese-Australian former ballet dancer who is now artistic director of Queensland Ballet.

‘I knew Li through his famous autobiography, Mao’s last dancer, which was turned into a film. When I met him, I found that he is passionate and thoughtful about ballet. His enthusiasm and the pursuit of his career are so relatable to me. I started this painting after finishing the commissioned portrait. Li now puts most of his time into programming choreography and guiding the young ballet dancers, which takes his career to another level, and that is what I wanted to show,’ says Chen.

‘I used dark colours, as I always do. The background is the mirror of the ballet studio, which not only locates the painting but reflects the other characters I wanted to include. Also, by using the reflection, I could make the background realistic yet abstract, while Li’s leaning posture has an infectious power.’

Born in China in 1960, Chen migrated to Australia in 1990 and is Brisbane-based. A five-time Sulman Prize finalist and three-time Wynne Prize finalist, he is a finalist again in this year’s Wynne. This is the seventh time he has been represented in the Archibald Prize.

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