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The 2018 Archibald Prize has gone to an unlikely self-portrait

Written by
Ben Neutze

It's fifth time lucky for Melbourne artist Yvette Coppersmith, who has won the 2018 Archibald Prize with her fifth entry. The painting is a self-portrait in the style of Australian artist George Lambert, who championed the avant-garde in Australia.

Coppersmith had originally asked New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern to pose for the image, but Ardern was unavailable. So she decided to channel the PM's energy in her own portrait, painted in oils. 

"I had several reasons for asking Jacinda Ardern, but through her role she expands what an image of a young woman can signify – inspiring others to think beyond any perceived limits of their own image in relation to the contemporary political landscape," Coppersmith said.

She also said the first oil-painting she ever created was a self portrait in a mirror while at school, and that the early moment now feels like a part of Archibald history. Last year, Coppersmith painted another powerful woman for her entry: professor Gillian Triggs

This year's winning painting was chosen by the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW from 57 finalists featuring famous Australian faces from politics, art, music, film, sport and theatre. After last year's male-heavy line-up, the Archibald surged a little closer to gender parity among its finalists – there are 27 women painters to 31 men – but women actually make up a slim majority of the sitters, with 31 women to 29 men. 

There are 21 self portraits amongst the bunch, including works by Del Kathryn Barton, Vincent Namatjira and Robert Hannaford. And there are plenty of familiar names among the finalists – more than three-quarters of the painters have been finalists in previous years.

The Wynne Prize, for landscape painting, and the Sulman Prize, for subject, genre or mural painting, both went to Indigenous artists.

Yukultji Napangati won the Wynne Prize for a painting of Yunala, a rock hole among sandhills west of Kiwirrkura in Western Australia. 

Yukultji Napangati, Untitled

And Kaylene Whiskey won the Sulman Prize for 'Kaylene TV', a painting featuring Cher and Dolly Parton.

Kaylene Whiskey, 'Kaylene TV'

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibition is at the Art Gallery of NSW from May 12 to September 8. 

Check out our hit list of the best art exhibitions to see in Sydney this month.

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