Renowned Sydney artist Tony Costa wins 2019 Archibald Prize for portrait of artist and Zen Buddhist Lindy Lee

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Renowned Sydney artist Tony Costa wins 2019 Archibald Prize for portrait of artist and Zen Buddhist Lindy Lee
2019 Archibald Prize winner Tony Costa's Lindy Lee oil on canvas, 182.5 x 152 cm © the artist Photo: AGNSW, Felicity Jenkins.

SYDNEY.- Sydney artist Tony Costa’s portrait of artist Lindy Lee has won the 2019 Archibald Prize. Lee is a leading contemporary Australian artist herself. Her art practice explores her Chinese ancestry through the philosophies of Taoism and Zen Buddhism.

On hearing the news Costa said, “I’m absolutely overwhelmed, honoured and thrilled.

“I am very aware of all those who have come before me as Archibald Prize winners and I am humbled, to say the least.

“What matters to me is not visual accuracy but feelings above all else. In a nutshell, that’s what I do,” Costa added.

Costa said he listened to an interview Lindy gave at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and found himself agreeing with many of her ideas.

“I was attracted to her wisdom, humility, courage, humour and, above all, her deep focus regarding her art practice,’ Costa said.

“In my portrait of Lindy, I have kept the colour minimal to avoid any visual noise. The challenge for me was to capture the energy of Lindy – the emotional over and above the physical,” Costa added.

Born in Sydney in 1955, Costa completed postgraduate studies at the City Art Institute. He has been represented in the Wynne Prize, the Sulman Prize and the Dobell Prize for Drawing, and won the Paddington Art Prize for landscape painting in 2014. He was a finalist in the Archibald Prize in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Lindy Lee, herself an Archibald finalist in 2002, has appeared as a subject in 2006, painted by Bin Xie, and 2012, in a portrait by Kate Beynon.

This is the first Archibald-winning portrait to feature an Asian Australian sitter in the 98-year history of the prize.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said that Costa’s work had been selected as a finalist and then as the winner from a record number of entries for the Archibald Prize.

“The work is clearly the product of close and sympathetic observation by Tony. Its strong, expressive painterliness and minimal palette project a sense of calm and repose, reflective of Lindy Lee’s Zen Buddhist practice,” Brand said.

In awarding the 2019 winners of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, Board president David Gonski said:

“It wasn’t an easy year to pick, there was a lively and thoughtful debate, but in the end the judges were unanimous in their choices.”

Mark Hand, ANZ Group Executive, ANZ Australia Retail and Commercial was delighted to hear that Tony Costa had been selected as the winner of the 2019 Archibald Prize.

“To be awarded the Archibald Prize is an exceptional achievement and ANZ congratulates Tony Costa. The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s most prestigious and loved art awards that showcases the best of our creative talent and makes it accessible to all of us. We are proud to have supported this iconic exhibition for ten years,” Hand said.

This year the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trustees awarded a highly commended honour to Jude Rae for her portrait of actor Sarah Peirse as Miss Docker in Patrick White's play A cheery soul. Rae was also an Archibald Prize finalist in 2014 with another portrait of Peirse.

Sylvia Ken wins the 2019 Wynne Prize of $50,000 for her painting Seven Sisters

The Wynne Prize is awarded annually for 'the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists’. Sylvia Ken’s win is the fourth year in a row that Indigenous artists have been awarded the Wynne Prize, starting with the Ken Family Collaborative in 2016, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani in 2017 and Yukultji Napangati in 2018.

From the Amata community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in South Australia, Sylvia Ken’s family are traditional owners for significant sites where the Seven Sisters story takes place.

“I have worked for years at Tjala Arts in Amata community. I paint the story of my country – the Seven Sisters story. This story is important for me and for so many women across the APY lands. I am so honoured to be recognised for my work. Today is an important day for me, but I share my prize with everyone at my art centre and all the women who I work alongside celebrating the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa,” Ken said.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said Ken’s painting has extraordinary visual depth.

“This complex work recalls the starry skies of the Milky Way as much as it does the rest of the land where the Seven Sisters story takes place, on Sylvia’s country where her family are the traditional owners,” Brand said.

Natasha Bieniek’s landscape painting Reflection has been recognised as a highly commended finalist in the 2019 Wynne Prize. Pairing intricate oil painting with a large gold-mirrored surface Reflection explores Bieniek’s ongoing interest in the relationship between people and nature within an urban context. Bieniek won the Wynne Prize in 2015 and has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize six times, including this year (2019) for her self-portrait, Waiting for Arden.

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili wins 2019 Roberts Family Prize for her work Pink lightning

Finalists in the Wynne Prize are eligible for the Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prize, an annual prize of $10,000 awarded to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artist. Yirrkala-based artist Noŋgirrŋa Marawili is the second recipient of the prize, which was established in 2018.

Marawili depicts her country, Baraltja, north of Cape Shield in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Pink lightning presents the cyclonic, crocodile-infested waters with huge tides and ripping currents. Rocks are set in deep water between the electric ‘curse’ that the lighting snake spits into the sky and the sea spray from the ocean waves trying to shift the rocks’ immovable foundation.

Robyn Sweaney wins 2019 Trustees’ Watercolour Prize for her work Perfect uncertainty

Finalists in the Wynne Prize are also eligible for the Trustees’ Watercolour Prize valued at $5000. Robyn Sweaney’s watercolour of a simple home in a small rural town in Victoria considers light and shade, colour and balance and is imbued with a sense of history.

McLean Edwards wins 2019 Sulman Prize for his work The first girl that knocked on his door

The Sulman Prize, valued at $40,000, is awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist. Each year the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW invite a guest artist to judge, in 2019 artist Fiona Lowry selected 27 finalists for the Sulman Prize.

On hearing that his work The first girl that knocked on his door had been awarded the 2019 Sulman Prize winner, McLean Edwards said:

“I’m thrilled to have been selected by guest judge Fiona Lowry as the winner of the 2019 Sulman Prize. Fiona is held in universal high regard as an artist. To receive affirmation from her for my work is incredible.”

Lowry said that on coming back to judge the winner she was reminded of an interview she recently read with the artist Eric Fischl where he suggests that artists are looking for love, and they are expressing love in their commitment to what they have made.

“This idea of love resonates as you walk around these rooms and listen to each distinct voice and the earnestness of each artist’s work hanging on the wall, wanting you to look at them and to care and connect,” said Lowry.

“Deciding a winner was fraught, but it was the sound of McLean Edwards’ The first girl that knocked on his door that I came back to – it reminded me of the heartbreak that love can bring with it and where the end is often in the beginning,” Lowry added.

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