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Michael Vale’s subject is American rock guitarist and singer Kid Congo Powers. ‘As a music tragic, my favourite subjects are musicians I admire who have a larger-than-life visual persona,’ says Vale.
‘Having seen Kid Congo Powers perform several times with his band, The Pink Monkey Birds, as well as enjoying the music he has made with other bands, including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I decided he would be a great subject for a portrait. He is a very flamboyant performer with a heightened sense of theatre. With costumes including astrakhan hats, Dracula capes and voodoo make-up, Kid Congo is a highly accomplished guitarist whose music seems to emanate from the far, gothic reaches of a parallel universe.’
Invited by Powers to a rehearsal in Melbourne, Vale spent several hours making sketches and taking photographs. ‘When I started the painting, I had a book about Captain Cook lying around and decided to portray him as an explorer discovering a mysterious island – one inhabited by ghouls and, of course, pink monkey birds,’ he says.
Based in Melbourne, Vale makes ghost films with his wife Donna McRae, while his paintings lean towards the gothic and the absurd. This is his third time in the Archibald Prize.