Finalist, Percival Tucker Portrait Prize
This painting is a self-portrait of the artist in her capacity as founder and managing director of registered Australian charity Possum Portraits. This charity is noteworthy because it has the distinction of being unique in the world in terms of the service it provides: resident artists, including the founder herself, draw commemorative keepsake portraits of so-called angel babies for bereaved parents. Angel babies are babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, and the charity provides their hand-drawn portraits free of charge.
As such, the portrait subject is somebody who spends her professional life in constant discourse with an entity most people try to ignore: this entity of course, is death. Confronted each day with the reality of babies who die too soon, the immutable force of life's end ought to hang over my portrait subject like a leaden weight. And while a heaviness is certainly there, this portrait is really an attempt to capture another emotion: intrigue at this most humbling and incontrovertible reality.
Holding the fort against the jarring finality of oblivion are the twin towers of intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of self-knowledge. The rigours of these pursuits constitute the necessary bulwark against the gravitational pull of sorrow which drawing angel babies would otherwise occasion in the charity’s founder and principal artist. Instead, each baby immortalised on paper is a flaming monument of defiance against the chill of the void.
Painted in tempera, the most impermanent, mutable and transient painting medium of all due to its quality of being entirely re-workable even after drying, “Observation” is at once defying finality and humbly accepting the ultimate victor in the battle with death.