An artist from Birralee has been named one of the finalists in the highly coveted Archibald Prize.
Susannah Curtis’ work is a portrait of Tasmanian artist and designer Tara Badcock, who works primarily with textiles and responds to historical events from Tasmania’s colonial period.
The women have known each other for about 18 years.
Curtis said she painted Ms Badcock naked to reflect “the humility she feels as a person finding a sense of place in being born in Tasmania with colonial heritage”.
“I feel her head gear references an early colonial hat, whilst her plaited hair that wraps around like a necklace reminds me of a mixture of Tasmanian Aboriginal necklaces of kangaroo sinew and grass cord covered with ochre, strips of animal fur and strings of shells,” she said.
Curtis said she admires the fun, empathy and authenticity Ms Badcock brings to her work.
“Tara feels neither pride nor sympathy [for her colonial forbears] against the background of raw, cruel ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide of the Aboriginal population of this island which occurred within decades of white occupation. [It’s] a massive historical scar which underlines everything in Tasmania with a charred sense of grief and guilt,” she said.
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Curtis had a wonderful person in her life when she was young who always supported her.
She completed her visual arts degree at university and majored in print making and oil painting. Then took a break from oil painting when children came on the scene, but later visited someone’s studio and realised how much she missed it from the smell.
Curtis said she can’t imagine not painting, as for her, being creative is a way to make sense of the world and the space she occupies within it.
“It’s that drive. It’s that mirror to show me where I’m really at inside,” she said.
“I imagine it’s a bit like when people exercise and it makes them feel good, I can’t not paint. I have always tried to do it no matter my circumstances.”
Curtis said she sees entering prizes such as the Archibald as a part of being an artist, and no matter how many times you get rejected you keep on going.
Curtis said for budding artists or those struggling to find a foothold in the industry to keep doing what is in their heart and be completely themselves.
“Don’t compare yourself to other people. You’re the only one who knows what you’re trying to do,” she said.
The Archibald Prize recognises the best portrait preferably of someone of note within the art, letters, science or politics sectors and painted by any artist resident in Australasia.