Archibald prize Winner: Packing Room Prize 2019 – Through the looking glass by Tessa MacKay


Artist: Tessa MacKay

Title: Through the looking glass

Medium: oil on linen

Dimensions: 210 x 330.5 cm

The subject of Tessa MacKay’s painting is renowned actor David Wenham.

‘David delights in strolling through his Sydney neighbourhood, be it the cafe strips for coffee and a yarn with his local barista, or the park where he takes his kids. All the while, he’s happy for passers-by to approach him, demonstrating his curious, generous nature. Sydney had to be part of his portrait, but I wanted to nestle David within a figurative essence of Sydney,’ says MacKay.

‘David and I searched for a place to create my composition and I chose to situate him in a cafe behind a glass pane, with the streetscape reflecting into the interior. Through this sitting, and looking at my reference images later, I could study David’s face, his hands, arms and shirt, and begin to understand his environment and how he exists in the world. I also desired a challenge with this portrait and painted gradients, organic forms, geometry and vanishing points.’

Born in 1991 and based in Perth, MacKay paints large-scale hyperrealist portraiture. This is her first time as an Archibald Prize finalist. In 2017, she was featured in the Foxtel Arts documentary The Archibald. Wenham was the subject of Adam Cullen’s Archibald Prize-winning portrait in 2000 and Jordan Richardson’s portrait in 2018.

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