Nick Stathopoulos’ Archibald Prize entry may not feature a face, but as his subject matter Geoff Ostling put it, “the bum is far more important”.
Stathopoulos has approached his third crack — pun intended — with a trademark sense of humour and poignancy as seen in his previous finalist pieces: an oddly sweet portrait of The Movie Show’s David Stratton asleep in a cinema and an equally surprisingly emotive portrait of Mr Squiggle.
Capturing Ostling, the great tattooed Bear, in an artistically simple manner, Stathopoulos emphasises the simple humanness of a gay and lesbian community identity, while managing to expertly render the intricacy of Ostling’s body art.
“I did make the mistake of asking Geoff as he was posing, ‘Just how extensive is the tattoo?’ He bent over and spread his cheeks,” Stathopoulos told Sydney Star Observer.
“I always thought Geoff would make a good subject, and after Skins was aired I thought, ‘Now’s the time’.
“I’d been thinking about the portrait for a long time, so I knew the type of approach I wanted. There was a real danger, and I didn’t want the painting to end up being a freak show.
“I also wanted to capture some part of Geoff’s personality. I was afraid that if the painting was too confrontational, it would create a barrier between the viewer and the painting.”
But will it be too controversial for one of our country’s most prestigious art prizes?
“I’ve stopped worrying about trying to second guess the trustees. I paint these things for myself,” Stathopoulos said.
“To be a finalist alone means the work travels and the exposure is great. People from around the country get to see the work.
“But I think they do like to hang paintings that push the envelope. I don’t know if mine pushes the envelope enough, in fact. It’s a fairly traditional approach to a subject, and it’s just how I’ve handled the composition that makes it a bit more interesting.”
To Ostling, simply being hung in the same hall that has featured the likenesses and works of Australia’s most eminent talents is enough.
“It’s wonderful to be in the company of such wonderful people,” he said. “People who have won, or been part of the prize over the years.
“I suppose no one ever really likes their own portrait, but I am absolutely delighted to see it hung.”
info: The Archibald winner and recipients of the People’s Choice Award will be announced on March 26.