The man who brought us portrait paintings of humour, dark satire, light comedy and caricature through the Bald Archy Prize is himself the subject of another prestigious Prize.
Tumut photographer Robyn MacRae has been announced as a finalist in the inaugural Ballarat International Foto Biennale Martin Kantor Prize, with Peter Batey OAM as her subject.
Named in honour of the late portrait photographer Martin Kantor, the $15,000 acquisitive prize is awarded for a photographic artwork of a significant, living Australian in the fields of art, letters, science, sport or politics.
Robyn has been a long-time fan of the Bald Archy Prize, and when the call for entries was put out, Peter came to mind.
“I have always loved the Bald Archy Prize, visiting the exhibit has become a bit of a family tradition for me,” Robyn said.
“My father’s family were avid art collectors. My grandmother was a painter and had a studio above her beautiful house at Pittwater which overlooked the water, north of Sydney. I loved the light in that house and I have fond childhood memories of her talking about the artwork that hung on her walls, including some early pieces from famed Australian artists such as Hans Heyson and some pieces which had been hung in the major art prizes such as the Wynn Prize.
“The Bald Archy struck a chord with me. I loved how it somehow had that underdog feel and I love the irreverence and the opportunity for people to make a statement through their art.”
The Bald Archy is a humorous portrait competition satirising its highbrow cousin, the Archibald Prize, that began in Coolac and was created by Mr Batey.
Robyn feels the Bald Archy has risen to such a place that it needs to be recognised for the amazing collection of contemporary Australian art that it is.
“It is topical, it is outspoken, it is creative, it is sometimes scandalous – just how art should be,” she said.
“When the call for entries popped up in my email to contribute images of Australians of note in the arts, the only person that came to mind to me was Peter. I had read about Peter and I knew of his significant contribution to Australian arts, and I hoped that he may consider sitting for me for the Kantor Prize.”
Armed with a battery of photographic equipment, Robyn met with Peter in his home at Coolac to shoot the portrait.
“We actually spent most of our time chatting and a little time shooting,” she said.
“We talked of his career, the Festival of Art at Coolac, the snag comp and the Bald Archy. I came away a far richer person than when I arrived.
“I took a series of shots and I hoped to capture Peter’s vibrant personality, his generosity and his humbleness as well as his contentment in his home.
“The portrait that I chose to submit to the Kantor Prize was quite traditional in set up, with a backdrop hung across Peter’s lounge room. Quite a serious studio portrait.”
Peter is thrilled Robyn has made the list of finalists, and says it was a pleasure to sit for her.
“It’s great that Robyn’s there (in the finals), I think it’s just fantastic for her,” he said.
Peter is in good company, with other portrait subjects in the Kantor Prize including actor Bryan Brown, entertainer Barry Humphries, comedian Wil Anderson and musicians Tim Rogers, Nick Cave and Paul Kelly.
An exhibition will showcase the finalists at Ballarat on August 20, where the winner will be announced.
To see the line up of finalists, go to www.ballaratfoto.org/events/martin-kantor-portrait-prize/