Mitch Cairns, pictured with his partner Agatha Gothe-Snape, has won the 2017 Archibald Prize for his portrait painting titled Agatha Gothe-Snape.
Mitch Cairns, pictured with his partner Agatha Gothe-Snape, has won the 2017 Archibald Prize for his portrait painting titled Agatha Gothe-Snape. BRENDAN ESPOSITO

It's a family affair for Archibald winner

CAMDEN-BORN artist Mitch Cairns was the close-call winner of the 96th Archibald Prize, with a vibrantly coloured, affectionate portrait of his partner and fellow artist Agatha Gothe-Snape.

The painting won narrowly over a majestic portrait of legendary Sydney art dealer Ray Hughes by artist Jun Chen.

Despite his own portrait not winning, Hughes said he was "not unhappy” with Cairns's win and the generational change it represented.

Cairns is 33 and lives in Balmain with Gothe-Snape and their two-year-old son.

His portrait of Gothe-Snape shows her in a yoga pose in a bright red room.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said the trustees had chosen a "terrific” winner that paid homage to modern masters like Matisse while also being a contemporary expression in its own right.

Cairns said he had composed the portrait "with love”.

"I'd like to thank, of course, Agatha, my beautiful partner, I love you very much,” he said.

"Agatha and I share everything in our lives - our two-year-old son, our work as artists and our day to day lives,” he said.

Cairns said her position on the floor related to the "creative play” that happened frequently in their domestic life with their young son.

The painting was praised for its economical use of palette and line.

The often controversial $100,000 Archibald was announced at the Art Gallery of NSW by president of trustees David Gonski.

The judges spent the morning deliberating over the decision at Sydney's Art Gallery of NSW, whittling the 43 finalists down to two.

Chen was highly commended for his portrait of renowned art dealer Ray Hughes.

The Wynne Prize of $50,000 for best landscape painting or figure sculpture went to Aboriginal artist Betty Kuntiwa Pumani from Antara in South Australia.

Sydney-based artist Joan Ross won the Sulman Prize of $40,000 for the best genre painting, subject painting or mural project.

- Elizabeth Fortescue

The Daily Telegraph



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