In 2019 David Holmgren sat still for a long time, something difficult to do for the indefatigable 64 year old. While David sat, Eugene von Nagy sketched and painted a portrait of David that has just been made a finalist for The Lester Prize, the third largest portrait prize in Australia, after the Moran and Archibald.
When Eugene first sent David a photograph of the portrait, David wrote:
At first sight your portrait was striking, even shocking in its gravity and, what feels to me, penetration of over the horizon sight. The hands seem powerful, ready to act, and the animals coming out of the frame to see what’s up seem like collaborators breaking the boundaries of culturally proscribed norms in the process.
While the reaction of subjects is not the point of portraits, I feel you have rendered much more than recognition of a face.
Comments from colleagues and the general public have been flowing in. Some of these include:
Fabulous painting, it captures so much of David’s passion and intent. – Vasko Drogriski
That’s quite incredible – you have captured such a powerful element of his character. – Sebastian Klein
The Visionary. I can just hear him: “Collapse now and avoid the rush!” – Helen Loughrey
Love it! He seems to be sitting outside of the frame. So symbolic! – Zoë Mohl
Out the front of Eugene’s studio in Melbourne is a shopfront where he displays work. For one month in 2019 the window featured a RetroSuburbia display and attracted much interest from passers by:
The Lester Prize is at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the state that David called home for the first 18 years of his life.
You can see the other finalists here. Winners will be announced on 15 October 2021.