Words: Erin Irwin
Sydney-based artist Julia Gutman has beat out 948 impressive submissions and 56 finalists in this year’s Archibald Prize to nab top spot for her work Head in the sky, feet on the ground. At only 29 years of age, this makes her one of the youngest winners of the prize since the Prize’s inception in 1921. She is the 100th artist to receive the Archibald Prize, and her win marks the 13th time the prize has been awarded to a woman.
“I’m so elated and overwhelmed to have won”, says the artist, “shocked, dumbfounded, but very happy. It’s honestly completely surreal. I’m so grateful to be working at a time when young female voices are heard.”
Gutman’s practice is multidisciplinary, often using and recycling textiles as a surface medium, which she works into with paint to produce ‘patchworks’ which focus on themes of femininity, intimacy and memory. She has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney, and has been named a finalist in the Ramsay Art Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Blake Prize at Casula Powerhouse Museum, and the Create NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship at Artspace. Gutman has recently been an artist in residence at Palazzo Monti in Rome and Fountainhead in Miami.
The Archibald prize is awarded to a portrait that is “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics”. Gutman chose to portray Sydney-based singer-songwriter Montaigne, who represented Australia at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, and won an ARIA for Best Breakthrough Artist in 2016.
Montaigne and Gutman have been friends for a number of years, the artist stating that “Montaigne’s work defies genres, while [their] mercurial soprano has become an indelible part of the fabric of Australian music”.
“It’s such an insane honour to be the Archibald Prize winning sitter”, says Montaigne, “I sure didn’t see it coming, not because I don’t believe in Julia’s incredible talent and warm heart, but because you just never think this stuff is going to happen to you. Thank you so much to Julia for seeing me as a worthy sitter for her beautiful vision”.
Alongside Gutman, artist Zaachariaha Fielding from the Mimili community on the APY lands has won the Wynne Prize for his work Inma, and Luritja artist Doris Bush Nungarrayi has won the Sulman Prize for her work Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming). Cairns-based artist Andrea Huelin won this year’s Archibald packing room prize for her portrait of Cal Wilson.
All finalists of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will be on exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW 6 May – 3 September, before the Archibald tours Victoria and NSW. The Wynne Prize will also tour this year for the first time.
This article was posted 9 May 2023.
Image: Julia Gutman, Head in the sky, feet on the ground, 2023. Oil, found textiles and embroidery on canvas, 198 x 213.6cm. Courtesy: the artist and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.