Bud Tingwell a tribute.

Iconic Australian Actor Bud Tingwell passed away in May 2009, many of you will know Peter Biram painted his portrait for the Archibald Prize this year and wrote about it exclusively right here. It’s fitting I give Peter a chance to say a few words in his memory.

Remembering my mate Bud

When I heard of Bud’s passing I was greatly saddened, the magic about Bud, was he made everyone feel so welcome and special. He made me feel like I’d known him for a very long time. I feel sadness at his loss because of the things, which could have been.

There has been renewed interest in the painting, and it will be in the Victorian Salon De Refuses (for Victorian Artists works which did not make it into the Archibald prize final selection.) Which will be at the Smart artZ Gallery, 2 Alfred Place, South Melbourne, June 17 – July 12.

Peter Biram with Bud and the portrait.


Here is another link to more info.

Bud, Pete and Archie, an insight

Television and film star, not to mention Australian icon Bud Tingwell is my subject for this years upcoming Archibald Prize, he proved to be my most challenging portrait subject to date.

It is the most difficult portrait I have done because, I respect him so much as an individual – I wanted to do him justice, I wanted the portrait to be right.


Peter Biram’s Portrait of Bud Tingwell for the 2009 Archibald Prize

Bud is the fifth subject I have painted for the Archibald Prize. My previous entries included race walker Nathan Deakes, Mathematician Robyn Arianrhod, newsreader Mal Walden and showbiz identity Roland Rocchiccioli.

My first meeting with Bud took place at the 2007 Salon Des Refuses in Melbourne, I knew very little about him before I put paintbrush to canvas, other than his on screen persona, he invited me to his place and we talked about love, war and the film industry.

It usually takes me anywhere between a few of days to a couple of weeks to complete a portrait, but Bud’s portrait took me, off and on six months. I got to the point where it was ridiculous, it’s not going to be perfect. Sometimes on-air personalities don’t match with the real-life person. Sometimes you could pickup cues from one’s personality on the big screen. I thought Bud seemed to be a nice person but you can never really tell. It was lucky he turned out to be as nice as he appears to be in television and film. If I don’t like the person I can’t paint them. Portrait painting is a very private process; you get up close and personal. I would describe Bud’s portrait as honest. I asked him how he would describe himself, Bud replied, “A Slob” I think what he meant was, he was sick of being portrayed as a sophisticated gent. He wanted the portrait to say something different; he wanted it to have substance.

The day of the sitting I met at Bud’s home, I wanted to create an environmental portrait, almost like a family snap shot. This I felt, would give the painting humanistic content, Bud would be surround by his personal objects, books tapes and even the several remotes placed on the lamp table. At the time he was preparing for the role of Winston Churchill in a TV film role, so the room was filled with references. So I used this as a narrative backdrop to the painting, because of the eclectic nature of the background this again adds to the family snap shot feel. I felt this side of Bud’s persona was not to my knowledge, previously portrayed. In all of my portraits I try to make it a team effort, that of the sitter and the artist, some times sitters have strong input in the content of the paintings while other times they don’t. I always start from the point of – “How do you see yourself” and extend from there.


Bud and myself at our house in Gembrook

For the first time I was nervous about showing Bud the final product, Nine times out of ten the sitter may find the portrait confronting, I felt I captured a likeness, but I think first and foremost it must be a good painting and Bud really loved it as a ‘painting’. There is a degree of sadness and also a degree of happiness (in the painting). The previous paintings and images of Bud are only showing one persona, the polished gent. I thought, yes, he is that, but also he’s more… one side a polished gent, and the other a vulnerable human being.

When I finished the painting I invited Bud up for a bar-b-que and to view the painting, there’s that awkward moment, what if he didn’t like it, what do you say? Bud’s reply… he had not looked at it for an accurate representation, but its own intrinsic value as a work of art…. And as a work of art.. He loved it. To me he couldn’t have made a better statement.

Here’s a link to an article on it. as well

Bud, Pete and Archie…

One of our contributors, Artist and interviewee Peter Biram has again managed to get some PR exposure for his entry into this years Archibald prize, Well done Pete!

An Archibald Journey

The following article is By Victorian Artist Peter Biram chronicling some of his “Archibald Journey” thanks Pete for your fascinating look at the Archibald Portrait Prize (An Australian Artistic Institution), this is a fantastic chance to see behind the scenes from an artists perspective… Take it away Pete…

Steve Gray

There is something special about the magic and frustration of the big prize known as the ‘Archibald Prize – My journey concerning entering the Prize over the past couple of years, has been a ‘double edged sword’. A story of joy and reward, and of disappointment. I feel with this statement I have just summed up the art world. But first let me take you back to the beginning, why enter the Archibald? Some say it’s “Nothing more than a chook raffle”, while other say “It’s the dunny of Australian art… attracting entries like odor attracts flies”.

I don’t share this view point, however a can see some strength in their argument. At the end of the day I feel the true strength of the argument lies in the fact we are opening up a wider avenue of dialogue, this in turn has to be good for Art.

Before I share my story with you it may be valuable to underpin this essay with a little background on the history of the Archibald…

The Archibald Prize originated with a charitable bequest endowed by Jules Francois Archibald in 1916. His will stipulates a portrait painted by any artist resident in Australasia, preferably of some one distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics.

Jules François Archibald (1856 – 1919),

The Archibald Prize has a litigious history with many of its defining moments in the Courtroom. The most significant of these was the 1943 Dobell case in which artists challenged the winner on the grounds the work by Dobell was a caricature rather than a portrait. Less famous but possibly more importantly, the Bloomfield case, in which the Art Gallery Trustees took an artist to court when they found he had not painted the portrait from life.

Their position appeared to be in the interests of fairness and their legal obligations under the terms of the bequest the matter required Court action. No award in history has caused so much controversy as the Dobell case in 1943 over the Joshua Smith portrait, since then a lot of brave attempts have been made to be controversial, the Brett Whiteley Portrait, Self – Portrait in Studio, I felt hits the mark.

Each year the entry form is headed by an invitation by the Art Gallery of New South Wales trust to artists to ‘submit paintings in competition for the Archibald Prize’. They then quote the words of Archibald in which he mentions ‘painted’ and then they quote from the Bloomfield case judgement and state that ‘For the purposes of this Prize, the Trustees apply the definition of a portrait as determined in the judgement of 1983: “a picture of a person painted from life”.’ So each year the hunt is on sitters of note wanted to be painted and artists searching for the sitter “of note” hoping that the choice of sitter will give the artist an edge and will catch the judges eye.

Many Archibald contenders go to a great deal of trouble to seek out their sitters; some subjects being closely guarded secrets. There is no doubt a famous and well-liked public figure may increase an artist’s chances of being hung. As a challenge to myself some years I selected a worthy yet generally unknown subject, In  2007 I painted a good friend I have known more than 20 years. We moved into our house about 20 years ago and that’s when I met Robyn who lived next door.

Portrait of Dr Robyn Arianrhod 2007 Oil on Canvas

The background of the portrait was born out of our long-term friendship and the professional respect I have for Robyn – this is my fourth year of entering the Archibald portrait competition, and being both a writer and a scientist, Robyn is a perfect subject under the Archibald rules.

Both Robyn and I have a love and concern for the environment and I’ve tried to convey this in the painting. Robyn is sitting in a ‘personal space’ (being in a private garden). The garden represents a ‘micro’ response to ‘land use’ and this is contrasted with the ‘macro’ response in the right hand panel.

The composition is broken into two halves, in order to symbolize “mathematical balance”. There is also contrast between strength and femininity and an interesting juxtaposition of sensuality and the stereotypically male-dominated environment of mathematics.

The right side of the portrait contains a landscape, on one level it is juxtaposed against the portrait offering an extension as a narrative to the portrait; on the other hand it operates as a ‘stand alone’ landscape in its own right, the landscape reads as on the following layers –

  1. Mark making – On this level the viewer processes the work on a surface level, that is to say the paint texture and colour of the work. The work at this level can be read in decorative terms.
  2. Subject – At this level the viewer reads the work as a landscape, within this framework the observer can interpret the geometric forms as pure decoration.
  3. Conceptual Narrative – The current  body of work exploring the theme of ‘land ownership’ and ‘usage’ within an environmental framework. This relationship includes traditional and non-traditional interaction with the land. For example, within this theme of land ownership I am exploring the pressure placed on the land in an environmental sense both in a western/ European standpoint (the ‘Triangle’) and the koorie perspective, (the dots).

Within this theme I am exploring the fine balance that exists in the natural environment. This is to say “Order & Chaos” found within nature and the balance of power shifting between the two states.
The composition is deliberately broken into two sections symbolizing the two states of  chaos & order, the fine balance of nature is placed under pressure re land “caretakership”.

Within this framework I have explored both contemporary ownership symbolized by the triangle in the bottom half of the composition.(from a European standpoint)

The ‘hard edged’ nature of the triangle also represents past civilizations (the pyramids of Egypt) this presents a symbol of ‘land ownership’ in the sense of ‘branding’ the land.
I choose the triangle/pyramid shape because of its direct contrast to the soft organic nature of the bush motif. This also symbolizes human kind’s influence on the natural landscape.

The two triangles “together” also read as a symbol for a ‘black hole’ within the context of a universe the top triangle is a symbol for Steve Hawking’s theory on the ‘Dual Universe’. I use this as a metaphor for “Order & Chaos” and how one juxtaposes one against another, that is to say, as human beings our nature is to explore, from a ‘micro’ level, our backyard, to a ‘macro’ level our universe.

Myself & Robyn in front of the Portrait in the studio Above: the 2007 Archibald entry

Part of entering the Archibald, I believe, is the opportunity to raise ones profile, this seems to be a sticking point for many artists, and the question of how many hours in the week do I devote to the quest of building ones profile. Some say 50/50, others put aside one day a week others two, at this point I am not going to explore this question as this topic would produce another essay to do it justice. However I have found on the question of raising ones profile, the Archibald gives quite an advantage, to date I have not been successful as being selected as a finalist for the Archibald, but I have been selected as a finalist (five times) for the Salon Des Refuses. (Melbourne)

The Artists who submit for the Archibald and are not hung, are invited to submit the rejected work for the Salon des Refuses, which is in the tradition of the French impressionists of the 1860’s who held a breakaway exhibition from the French Academy.

In 2007 I was very fortunate, as not only was my portrait of Robyn selected for the Salon Des Refuses but also a portrait of myself painted by one of my students and now dear friend and artist Ursula Theinert

Myself & Ursula at the opening of “The Hidden Faces of the Archibald” Exhibition 2007

This was indeed special as I was able to share good fortune with my friends and family returning to the question of increasing ones profile, such is the power of the Archibald as one can tap into publicity even by absence of success in being a finalist in the big prize. I suppose at the end of the day the Archibald enables the emerging Artist to “make it” within certain circles of the art world.

Opening night of ‘The hidden Faces of the Archibald’

In 2009 I wanted to draw an analogy between sport and art, so I picked a sports star who had reached the top of his profession but I also wanted to pick someone who experiences the same frustration as I do.

Nathan’s broken records but hardly anyone knows about him. Despite holding the world record for the 50km walk, Nathan has been starved of the lucrative sponsorship and advertising opportunities that so many Australian sports people are afforded. If he was a swimmer of a footballer he’d have no problem. But he’s gone into debt and had to sell his car to keep himself going. I just think it’s tragic.

Nathan has seemingly been blocked out of the Australian sporting mainstream, emerging artists face a similar battle to have their work taken seriously among a host of perennial Archibald finalists.

I think a lot of people have been locked out of the Archibald, because by the time you get all the leading portrait painters together, there might only be room for one or two wildcards (in the final exhibition).

2008 Archibald entry “Nathan Deakes, Race Walker”

Myself standing in front of my painting of Nathan at the Salon Des Refuses, (the hidden of the Archibald)
and in the studio.

In 2006 the entry contained a little political bite, I painted  Channel Ten newsreader Mal Walden, kicking back after a bit of gardening, still resplendent in gumboots and shorts, holding a shovel with his fluffy little dog Gypsy to the side. Down next to the dog, is a seemingly innocuous rabbit, painted by Jessica, my daughter. Well, that rabbit has extra political bite, it was a comment on – level playing field, it’s not.

I entered the Archibald Prize before, but my portrait of media personality Roland Rocchiccioli was rejected.
The rabbit was my comment on the Archibald Prize entry process, where seemingly artists outside a certain circle of regular entrants are often “locked out”. A few years ago an artist entered a painting of a rabbit into the Archibald Prize, which is for portraits of a man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics.

The Archibald is for paintings of distinguished people so how could a rabbit be in the Archibald? If the rabbit was used as a direct metaphor connected to the sitter I could understand, however at the time I thought the conceptual content regarding the choice of motif was a little ambiguous.

I think it’s the same every year, the same old names; Kerrie Lester, Jenny Sage, Robert Hannaford, Gary Shead. Their work is good but it’s the same artist’s every year.  What is this saying? That there’s no new talent in portrait painting in this country?  However I don’t want to be seen as having sour grapes about being rejected last year. It is simply saying “Try to open up a critical discourse and dialogue”. I like to describe the criticism as a “double edged sword”.

The Archibald is about controversy and I love the Archibald because we can criticise it. That’s what I love about being Australian, we like having a go at the establishment and while I worship the Archibald – and would worship it even more if I won it – it should be able to stand up to criticism. An artist’s job is to act as a commentator on what’s happening.

I think most artists probably feel the same way as I do (about the Archibald Prize) but if they feel they’re being gagged then they’re not doing their job. However my entry is not simply a criticism of the Archibald Prize, It’s multi-layered, it’s basically about Mal’s passion which is gardening.  Secondly, it’s about personal space and changing. The painting is about how nothing stays the same on a personal level, in a changing garden.

Then on a macro-level things are changing. In Australia there’s environmental change, pressure on land created by how we use it, as well as issues such as salinity and clear felling. And as for that little rabbit, the innocent little bunny that represents criticism of the Archibald Prize, there is another story behind it. When I knocked on Mal’s door, this cute little dog came bounding down the hallway. I straight away thought I wanted to paint the dog. The dog had a toy rabbit in its mouth.

An article from the Melbourne Age 2006 with the portrait of Mal Walden

At the end of the day I believe it’s about giving it a go, its like theatre, the stage, performing to an audience, putting all on the line and waiting for feedback, if any.

As you can see in the above article, Peter encourages his students to be involved in the Archibald prize, to see more evidence of this take a look at this link. Scroll down on that page to see the articles and learn more about artists and students at work. Particularly of interest is this from a Gippsland Victoria Regional TV station.