Picture this! Cultural heroes in the frame

The current Archibald touring exhibition at the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery is going great guns with a steady stream of schools, community groups and individual art lovers snaking their way around the Peel St space to view the show.

There are 39 paintings and portraits in this Archies collection of the finalists from last year’s event.

The Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921 and is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art awards. It’s judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW and awarded to the best portrait painting. It’s always attracted a who’s who of Aussie culture – plenty of politicians, celebrities, sporting heroes and artists get framed for it.

The winning portrait for the latest prize, that of actor Hugo Weaving 

by Del Kathryn Barton, obviously has attracted huge interest from locals. So has the entry of actress Asher Keddie. 

But the portrait of medico Catherin Hamlin, painted by Sally Ryan, has been a big drawcard too, for more than just artistic reasons. Dr Hamlin is 90 and the Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist who, with her husband New Zealander Dr Reg Hamlin, co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia years ago. 

It is a medical centre dedicated to providing free obstetric fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from childbirth injuries. The Hamlin story is engrossing and wonderful and locals have obviously responded to not just her medical and humanitarian legacy but also the fact her brother Jock and his wife Louisa live in Tamworth

Another outstanding local favourite is the portrait by Carlo Pagoda of his immigrant dad Petro. 

According to gallery exhibitions officer Pam Brown, it’s a painting of the artist’s 97-year-old father, but done on stainless steel in texta and paint. It shines like a jewel and has the market gardener and vegetables – illustrations of Pagoda’s family background in a deliciously artistically different way. 

Unlike normal times, but given this very special exhibition, it is $5 entry for adults for the gallery while the Archibalds are in residence. Opening hours have been extended so until March 16, the gallery is open seven days, from 10am to 5pm weekedays, Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and Sundays 11am to 3pm.

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