The Invisible Man Portrait Society

A little recognised or acknowledged yet again by Archibald cataloguers, curators or judges the work of the invisible Man Portraitist was again on Display. This year it was was Fred Dilligaf’s “Portrait of an Invisible Man in Foster St, Sale” Di and I were in Sale for the Archibald exhibition. I will be sharing my favourites over the next few weeks. But I want to share Dilligaf’s work first of all. Dilligaf’s Invisible Man is in the street outside the Sale Gallery. Once again, he is an enigma, forcing us to re-examine our concepts of portrait. Nothing that we hold true about portraits is true of this work, so we were forced to ask what we do hold true about portraits. Unless of course, we have missed this work completely. Dilligaf has left a large blank canvas above his work. Is he inviting contributions?

The Invisible Man Portrait Society (IMPS) began after Ralph Ellison, the author of the Invisible Man (1952) began painting. He was taken by the idea that portraits are an interaction between the artist and viewer inside a gallery. He wished to capture the interaction of the artist looking out of the gallery at an invisible man or woman who was looking back at the viewer. He was also taken by the idea that many people often stared at spaces on walls and galleries not knowing whether they were looking at art or simply a fire extinguisher or an empty picture frame or out a window at an invisible man: hence the concept of portrait of the invisible man in a scene outside a gallery. There are many portraits in this series in galleries all around the world. They are smuggled into galleries by members of the Invisible Man Portrait Society aided by subversive members of the gallery. The portraits are appreciated only by the cogniscinti. After much internal debate, the society has decided to go mainstream. It remains to be seen whether there will be a tsunami of interest.

Rachel Griffiths at the Archibalds

Natasha Bieniek’s portrait of Rachel Griffiths is striking in two ways. The first is that it is very small in a collection that is dominated by large works.

The second is that it is surprisingly intimate. Griffiths is portrayed in what is clearly her home, looking tired and drawn, surprisingly vulnerable. This is not the public persona, this is the private person, defences down. It is a very moving work.

Portraiture in the cause of social justice

Grace Tame was 2021 Australian of the Year and the focus of Nina Funnel’s #LetHerSpeak campaign that was aimed at overthrowing Tasmania’s gag laws that stopped victims of sexual assault from speaking out.

Anyone who hears Grace Tame’s story will be deeply angered by the injustice of it. Does this make this painting a better portrait? Certainly not. The painting must stand on its merits. The first thing you notice are Tame’s eyes. She is staring steadfastly past the viewer. Artist Kirsty Nielsen has captured a deep sense of stillness in Tame, an intense focus on some point in the distance and in the future. The structuring and colouring are interesting. Tame’s blonde hair is tightly pulled back emphasising the shape and structure of the face. The face is heavily made up the left-hand side is smooth and bathed in golden light whereas the right-hand side is slightly shadowed and hollowed. The neck is showing signs of ageing in contrast to the more youthful face. This is paralleled by the T-shirt. The right-hand side is smooth whereas the right shoulder is more wrinkled. Does this portrait stand on its merits? Most certainly.

From the Archibald Prize:  The official portrait of the President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal: Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC by Tsering Hannaford is a good portrait to discuss after Rachel Griffiths. What a contrast. If Natasha Bieniek’s portrait is an intimate and personal, Hannaford’s Beazley’s is cool, detached, impersonal sure of her place in the world.

As well she might be. This is the official portrait of the President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal. Beazley was the first woman ever appointed to the position which may explain something about the self-assured expression as she appraises the viewer. The expensive suit is exquisitely tailored and she radiates poise and power but it’s the confidence of a woman who has made it in what we have come to realise is an incredibly chauvinistic profession. She has been a fierce advocate for women in the legal profession. It’s a powerful statement. Grace Tame is in this exhibition. Almost everyone in Australia has heard of Grace Tame in the last year. Perhaps Margaret Beazley is reflecting on her 43 years championing the cause of women in the legal profession.

 The Invisible Man Portrait Society ii

My second posting for the Invisible man Portrait Society (IMPS) is “Birdwatcher in swamp guarded by two dodo skeletons” by an anonymous artist. It is hanging in the Hobart Art Gallery

There are many portraits in this series in galleries all around the world. They are smuggled into galleries by members of the Invisible Man Portrait Society aided by subversive members of the gallery. The portraits are appreciated only by the cogniscinti. After much internal debate, the society has decided to go mainstream. 

It remains to be seen whether there will be a tsunami of interest.

In many ways The Invisible Man Portrait Society is like art it has created, lacking form, a unique and ephemeral creation of each individual artist.

But now perhaps it is time for some recognition and a visible collection of the work so it can be appreciated by a wider audience.

So if there are any artists or clandestine members IMPS who would like to share their work could they leave a comment or contact on this website.

Kathryn Longhurst’s Archibald portrait of Kate Ceberano

The first painting I wish discuss is the Archibald painting “Kate” of singer Kate Ceberano by Kathryn Longhurst. It won the Packing Room prize and was used to promote the Archibald competition

The symmetrical framing of Ceberano’s face and positioning of the artist below her is not designed to be flattering. The subject is glaring out at the viewer as if she had been insulted. In the foreground, there is a jumble of fingers, in contrast to the symmetry of the face. It’s as if, Ceberano is making up her mind on some judgement about the viewer. It’s not likely to be pleasant.

The portrait is a strong, almost confrontational, presentation of the subject. It’s a contrast to the persona that Ceberano presents to the media.

It raises the question question of the relationship between the artist and the subject and the extent to which the subject can influence the final product.

Kathryn Longhurst’s Archibald portrait of Kate Ceberano

The first painting I wish to talk about from the Archibald is entitled “Kate” a painting of singer Kate Ceberano by Kathryn Longhurst. It won the Packing Room prize and was used to promote the Archibald competition.

The symmetrical framing of Ceberano’s face and positioning of the artist below her is not designed to be flattering. The subject is glaring out at the viewer as if she had been insulted. In the foreground, there is a jumble of fingers, in contrast to the symmetry of the face. It’s as if, Ceberano is making up her mind on some judgement about the viewer. It’s not likely to be pleasant.

The portrait is a strong, almost confrontational, presentation of the subject. It’s a contrast to the persona that Ceberano presents to the media.

It raises the question question of the relationship between the artist and the subject and the extent to which the subject can influence the final product.

Accused of lying by President Macron, attacked by the Murdoch Press, caught lying on EV policy, crailing in the polls by 6% points, Morrison decides to campaign on Honesty.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Australian Prime Minister Morrison. Badly ambushed on the international stage by French President Emmanuel Macron who, when asked if he thought Morrison had lied to him, replied “I don’t think, I know.”

It was an international humiliation by an international leader on the international stage and got international coverage. Morrison must have been furious.

His time in Glasgow at COP26 did not go well. Australia’s stand on climate change and support for the coal industry received international condemnation which was widely reported in the local media. TV coverage of him addressing an empty conference room was widely shown to a sense of Australia’s irrelevance on the international stage.

On returning, he received very bad press but the worst of it was from Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin, both of whom repeated the criticism of his lying.

Then astonishingly, when asked on radio by Neil Mitchel, if he believed had ever lied in public life, he made the statement. ” No not really, no no.”

He then tried to spruik his EV credentials having ridiculed Labor’s EV policy in the last election by saying that electric vehicles would not tow your caravan or your boat and that Labor was going to steal Australian’s weekends. It was ridiculed then and it was brought back to mock his claim of not lying.

And so, his rhetorical question, “Who do you trust?” seems downright stupid.

Mind you, he still has patriotism as his last refuge.

On First Going Back to Swimming After Lockdown

Often had I swum in pools of blue, 

And many goodly friends and teachers joined.    

Many pleasant hours had I spent

Until cut short by unkind Covid’s hold.

Often, during this long wait, I had dreamed,

That Aquaman would return to open the pools.

Yet I did not believe this could be true

Until I heard Papa say swimming lessons were back.

Then I felt like a new dolphin in the sea

When I jumped and dived and flipped.

Or with stout Papa and his strong arms

We went into the big pool with Matilda and Nick

Shouting at each other with wild delight.

By Winton and Papa

Is it time for “Moving to the cross bench” to be removed from the conventions of Australian politics.

In the Australian parliaments, both Federal and state, there is a convention for politicians who leave their Parliamentary party to serve on the cross bench as an independent.

This can happen in one of two circumstances.

1 The MP has some major disagreement on a matter of policy with the party and no longer feels they can vote with the party as matter of conscience.

2 The party has a major problem as a matter of principle with the member and expels them from the party

These people were not elected as individuals. They were elected as members of the political party and were elected because they had the support and the resources of that party. Once they have chosen to, or have been forced to, leave the party, they should not continue to be employed on the public purse as if they have their ex-party’s support.

In the case of Adem Somyurek who was minister in the Andrews government and a member of the Victorian Legislative Council. He was thrown out of the Labour Party and sits as an independent member in the Victorian Parliament 

In the case of Craig Kelly who was an MP in the Morrison government, he left the Liberal party, moved to cross bench as an independent and then joined the Clive Palmer-funded United Australia Party.

In both cases, these individuals no longer represent the party they were elected for. They represent a new set of values or they have disgraced set of values they were elected for. In both cases, they should resign from Parliament and face the electorate.

Palmer has had his fair share of people moving to the cross bench. All four of the Palmer United party, the four 2013 Senators quit on him and moved to the cross bench, only Jacqui Lambie survived the next election.

It is not expected that Kelly or Somyurek will be re-elected.

There is a very simple and clear principle here. People stand at elections where they have clear policies, which are usually those of the party they represent. When they no longer represent that party, they should resign from Parliament and test their new set of policies with the electorate.

These should not remain in Parliament on the assumption that their personal popularity and new sets of values resonates with the electorate.