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Archibald Prize 2016. Finalists. Wendy Whiteley

Artist: Natasha Bieniek

Title: Wendy Whiteley

Medium: oil on wood

Dimensions: 13.5 x 18.5 cm

Wendy Whiteley is a cultural icon, arts patron, and the former wife and muse of Brett Whiteley.

‘When I first stepped into Wendy Whiteley’s garden in Lavender Bay, I felt overcome with intrigue. It seemed incomprehensible that this magical place had once been a derelict wasteland filled with weeds and junk. I thought to myself, How is this possible? Who would do something like this? And why?’ says Natasha Bieniek.

‘I first met Wendy last year at a dinner held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I recognised her instantly. After our first conversation, I knew that I had to paint her. I’d spent the last 18 months painting inner-city landscapes and I couldn’t believe that she had spent more than 20 years transforming unused railway land into a living sanctuary. She never asked for the council’s permission, fearing that she would be stopped. She just did it.

‘Wendy has suffered so much tragedy and hardship in her life but the garden symbolises how incredibly strong-willed and determined she is. It became her salvation and rescued her from a very dark place. Wendy is an inspiration. She has given the community a great gift that should be celebrated and enjoyed for years to come.’

Born in Melbourne in 1984, Bieniek is a five-time Archibald finalist. In 2015, she was the winner of both the Wynne Prize and Portia Geach Memorial Award. She has exhibited widely across Australia and overseas.

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