Kantjuriny is a community elder and leading presence at Tjala Arts in Amata on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) in South Australia.

<i>Minyma mamu tjuta</i> by Naomi Kantjuriny, winner of the Sulman Prize.

Minyma mamu tjuta by Naomi Kantjuriny, winner of the Sulman Prize.

A distinguishing feature of Australia’s oldest and most-loved portrait prize this year was the large number of first-time finalists and young subjects as sitters, said Archibald Prize curator Wayne Tunnicliffe.

“This year, 46 per cent of finalists were first-timers, which is a higher percentage than previous years,” said Tunnicliffe, who is also head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW.

He said there were many portraits of young change-makers in the fields of acting, music and social activism.

“The trustees chose lots of new young faces as subjects and artists. I think this change has brought a fresh energy in all three prizes.


“Archibald is really representational of Australia in this moment,” Tunnicliffe continued.

“There are, of course, familiar faces like Germaine Greer, Marcia Langton and author Tim Winton – sitting for his first-ever Archibald portrait – as well as young faces of change like consent activist Chanel Contos; actor Chloe Hayden, an advocate for neurodiversity who is known for playing the neurodiverse character [Quinni Gallagher-Jones] in Heartbreak High; and the public face of the Australian music industry’s #MeToo movement, singer Jaguar Jonze.”

Contos, Hayden and Jonze were all painted by first-time finalists.

Another change this year to the typical finalist line-up, said Tunnicliffe, is the lack of current sports stars – the only such portrait in the finalist exhibition is of Matildas forward Cortnee Vine, by first-time finalist Tim Owers.

Other finalist portraits in the field of sports include former Socceroos captain and human rights activist Craig Foster, painted by Julian Meagher, and Indigenous ABC presenter and former AFL player Tony Armstrong, painted by first-time finalist and Indigenous/Burmese artist Mia Boe.

“We’ve got a wonderful inclusiveness of subjects this year – with some strong women in the mix,” Tunnicliffe said.

Other first-time finalists to watch include Andrew Small with a portrait of Heartbreak Highs Will McDonald; Ben Howe, who painted former hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert and her partner, comic Sami Shah; Camellia Morris’ Wild Wild Wiggle, which depicts original Wiggles member Anthony Field in the style of Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis (but instead of a gun, Field is wielding a banana); and Sydney artist Kean Onn See, who painted four-time Archibald finalist and friend Margaret Ackland.