Paul Ryan’s painting was originally intended to be a portrait of artist James Drinkwater but it turned into a double portrait; a painting about the act of painting.
‘James and I met through our Sydney gallery, Nanda Hobbs. He is a painter I greatly admire. On a recent trip to his studio I watched him for a couple of hours. Painting for him seems instinctual. He makes a series of marks and then, like a jazz musician, responds to them until the painting feels and looks right,’ says Ryan.
‘The structure is based on Velázquez’s painting Las meninas (1656). There I stand in my studio listening to the Beastie Boys, painting the picture you are now looking at. You are standing where James stood. His face is reflected in the mirror. You can see the back of the canvas and wet paint on the brush. You are looking at the raw elements that went into making the work. You are witnessing the actual moment of alchemy.’
Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1964, Ryan has been a finalist in the Wynne Prize on five occasions. This year he is a finalist in the Sulman Prize for the seventh time and the Archibald Prize for the 13th time.