Acclaimed Dhungatti artist Blak Douglas – born Adam Douglas Hill – has won the 2022 Archibald Prize for his portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, titled Moby Dickens.
It is the second time in 101 years that an Indigenous Australian has won the award, after Vincent Namatjira in 2020.
Dickens, who lives in the Bundjalung country of Lismore, is painted holding buckets as he stands ankle-deep in flood water. The 14 flat-bottomed clouds behind her represent the number of days and nights the first flood lasted in Lismore. At 3 by 2 meters it is the largest painting on display in the Archibald exhibition.
Douglas, who was a seven-time Archibald finalist, raised the $100,000 prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Friday: “First Nations artists are getting a hard hand,” he said in his speech. “It’s time for me, it’s time for us.”
“Karla is my favorite female First Nations artist, we’re good friends, we’re birds when it comes to our sentiment in art, and I really admire the way she puts her work together,” he said in a statement.
“I was there in Lismore immediately after the first deluge… and saw the shock and horror on people’s faces. Karla had just reached a pivotal point in her career and almost immediately the flood disaster happened. So, while she should normally have been excited about where her career was headed, she hosted three families in Lismore as part of her own rescue mission.”
Jude Rae was highly acclaimed for her portrayal of inventor and engineer Dr. Saul Griffith.
Nicholas Harding won the $50,000 Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting of Australian Landscapes or Figurative Sculpture, with his oil on linen work Eora. Harding was a nine-time Wynne finalist – and is a 19-time Archibald Prize finalist. Juz Kitson and Lucy Culliton were both highly acclaimed for the Wynne.
The $40,000 Sulman Prize for the best painting, genre painting, or mural in oil, acrylic, watercolor, or mixed media was won by Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro for Raikō and Shuten-dōji, a depiction of the battle between the warrior Raikō and the demon Shuten-dōji, painted on the fuselage of a Vietnam War helicopter.
On May 5, Sydney-based artist Claus Stangl won the Archibald’s Packing Room Award – judged by those who unpack and hang the portraits – for his 3D-style portrait of New Zealand film director, writer and actor Taika Waititi.
It was the last choice of head packer Brett Cuthbertson, who is retiring after 41 years with the gallery.
The Waititi portrait is one of 52 hung in the exhibition this year, including paintings by Helen Garner, Benjamin Law, Peter Garrett and Courtney Act; they were chosen from a selection of more than 800 entries, in an award judged by the art gallery’s curators.
Twenty Indigenous artists entered the Archibald – a record for the award – and there were 27 Indigenous finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman awards.
This year’s Archibald finalist exhibition also includes five vibrant works from Studio A, a Sydney collective of artists with intellectual disabilities who have had their most successful year to date.
The finalists of all three awards will be exhibited at the NSW Art Gallery from May 14 to August 28, 2022.