Oliver Watts is a finalist in the Archibald Prize

Congratulations to Oliver Watts for being a selected as finalist in the Archibald Prize with his portrait of actor Eryn Jean Norvill.

Eryn Jean Norvill played 26 characters in her virtuosic performance for Kip Williams’ adaptation of The picture of Dorian Gray for Sydney Theatre Company during 2020–21.

‘Eryn Jean is my most frequent collaborator. I have painted her around 20 times over the last ten years and she has been in some of my video pieces,’ says Sydney artist and writer Oliver Watts.

‘She is such a talented actor and writer that whenever we work together I feel it is a co-authored work through collaboration. I don’t think I’ve ever painted EJ as herself. Painting an actor in a role is a very British genre that reached its highpoint in the 19th century. I like the old-worldliness of it.

‘EJ was drawn to play Dorian because she wanted to explore how vanity, self-obsession and desire can warp our humanity. She also wanted to play a man, or many men, to see how differently power feels in that skin.

‘There are a lot of binaries in the portrait: EJ is a man/woman, real and fictional, powerful and elegant yet posed, anxious and self-aware. The work is Romantic and old-fashioned but also contemporary.’


Image: Oliver Watts, Dorian Gray (Eryn Jean Norvill), 2021, acrylic on canvas, 213.5 x 137.5 cm

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