We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Matthew Kentmann Les

oil on linen

31.5 x 26 cm

Matthew Kentmann met artist and former tattoo artist Leslie Rice when they were finalists in the 2015 Archibald Prize. Rice is known for his dark, brooding paintings, sometimes painted on black velvet.

‘Les projects a robust, cultivated aesthetic and identity, both in person and in anything he has a hand in – whether it’s a tattoo, drawing, painting or film role,’ says Kentmann, who was born in London in 1977 but is now a Sydney-based artist and art teacher.

‘To make the portrait, I worked from life initially and later tapped all available resources. But the most constructive information came from spending time with Les.

‘I worked on sized linen because of its raw, earthy quality, and underpainted it with a burnt sienna, which suggests clay and dried blood. I wanted a tenebrous portrait because that resonated with my perception of Les. He has depicted his own head severed and presented on a platter, alluding to the Biblical stories of Judith and Holofernes and John the Baptist. But after recently spending time with Les, I saw him as closer to Lazarus with his spirit of hope and promise.’

Listen to label text

Watch Auslan video