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Archibald Prize 2016. Finalists. The usurpers (self-portrait) by Michael McWilliams

Artist: Michael McWilliams

Title: The usurpers (self-portrait)

Medium: acrylic on linen

Dimensions: 200 x 160 cm

‘For some time, I have wanted to paint an image of the many introduced species which have gone on to become pests or affected the land in some way. Man, the species that has had the most impact on the environment, would have to be included,’ says Michael McWilliams.

‘For this reason I chose to turn the painting into a portrait reminiscent of the 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo and his composite heads. I chose to paint a self-portrait as I thought it unfair to ask any individual to be included in a painting called “the usurpers”.

‘The species chosen for this painting are those I think have caused the most environmental damage; however, I have tried to paint each creature as if it is innocent and oblivious to its actions. I was not greatly concerned about achieving a likeness of myself but it does actually look quite similar to me. My hair, however, is not so luxuriant and I don’t have ratty ears.’

Born in Launceston in 1956, McWilliams lives and paints in Perth, Tasmania. He has a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education from the Tasmanian School of Art. He has had 19 solo exhibitions since 1995. He has been a Wynne Prize finalist (2008 and 2010), and winner of the Glover Prize (2004) and Waterhouse Art Prize (2005 and 2008).

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