Archibald Prize 2024 won by Laura Jones for portrait of author Tim Winton

Archibald Prize 2024 won by Laura Jones for portrait of author Tim Winton
  • PublishedJune 8, 2024

Sydney-based artist Laura Jones has won the $100,000 Archibald Prize for her portrait of author and conservationist Tim Winton, becoming only the 12th woman to win the prize in its 103-year history.

She joins other woman winners including last year’s winner Julia Gutman; the first woman and youngest-ever winner Nora Heysen (1938); and Del Kathryn Barton, who has won the prize twice (2008; 2013).

A painting of Tim Winton
Archibald Prize 2024 winner: Laura Jones, Tim Winton.(Supplied: Art Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter)

Accepting the award at the ceremony at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), Jones said: “I hope this moment inspires more young girls to pursue a career in the Australian art world.

“As a little girl in Kurrajong, I dreamed about being an artist: I’ve been lucky enough to make that dream come true. More than any other event, today shows that I wasn’t completely crazy.”

On painting Winton, Jones told ABC News: “I thought I’d do a painting of him to shine a light on him and his advocacy for the environment.”

A woman in her early 40s - the artist Laura Jones - smiling and standing in front of her painting of Tim Winton
Jones met Winton at an environmental advocacy event in 2017, the year after she undertook an artist’s residency near the Great Barrier Reef.(ABC Arts: Anna Freeland)

When she visited Winton in Fremantle, they spoke about printmaking and political activism, and the environmental issues facing the world today.

Their conversation inspired her to approach the oil painting like a monotype — where an artist applies paint onto a plate that is pressed against paper to make only one print — using thin brushstrokes. In her artist’s submission, she explained: “[I let] the paint bleed across the canvas like ink into paper.”

She told ABC News: “I wanted to convey the landscape in his face to show the emotion of the topics we were talking about.

“Tim said that the purpose of art is not to persuade, but to enchant, and I really think he does that with his work, and his work really speaks for itself.”

This is Jones’s fourth time as an Archibald finalist, having previously painted actor Claudia Karvan (2023); journalist Brooke Boney (2022); and playwright Nakkiah Lui (2019). She was also a finalist in this year’s Sulman Prize, for her self-portrait titled Sliding doors.

A vivid green semi-realistic portrait of Claudia Karvan, a middle-aged white woman with long hair, seated on a theatre stage.
Portrait of Claudia Karvan by Laura Jones.(Supplied: AGNSW)

Jones was chosen by unanimous decision of AGNSW’s Board of Trustees, including fellow artists Tony Albert and Caroline Rothwell.

She bested 56 other finalists, selected from 1,005 entries, including portraits of activist Julian Assange and Saltburn actor Jacob Elordi.

Jones’s win follows last week’s announcement of the 2024 Packing Room Prize, which was awarded to Melbourne street artist Matt Adnate for his portrait of musician Baker Boy.

In her speech, Jones described winning the Archibald as an “incredible thrill … [I’m] shocked, so happy and humbled.”

An oil painting of a women undressed in a bedroom
Laura Jones was also a finalist for the Sulman Prize, with her self-portrait, Sliding doors.(Supplied: Art Gallery of New South Wales)

The winners of the Sulman and Wynne prizes were also announced Friday afternoon.

Elder Naomi Kantjuriny from Tjala Arts in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) won the $40,000 Sulman Prize for a mural or genre or subject painting, for her painting of mamu, or good and bad spirits. 

A black and white painting by Naomi Kantjuriny featuring many figures, trees and animals
Sulman Prize winner: Naomi Kantjuriny, Minyma mamu tjuta.(Supplied: Art Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter)

Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu won the $50,000 Wynne Prize for a landscape painting or figure sculpture, of the miwatj or “sunrise side” in Yolŋu Matha.

A black, white and grey patchwork painting
Wynne Prize 2024 winner: Djakaŋu Yunupiŋu, Nyalala gurmilili.(Supplied: Art Gallery of New South Wales/Jenni Carter)

Art about the environment

Jones grew up in Kurrajong in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and studied Winton’s 1991 Miles Franklin-winning novel Cloudstreet in high school.

With a long-time interest in the relationship between humans and the environment, Jones met the much-loved author at an environmental advocacy event in 2017, the year after she undertook an artist’s residency near the Great Barrier Reef, to study the impact of coral bleaching. The residency became the basis for her 2017 exhibition Bleached at Olsen Gallery in Sydney.

The artist watched the Winton’s ABC TV documentary Ningaloo Nyinggulu, about the fight to save Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, when it was released last year. The documentary, as well as a speech he made urging artists to challenge government inaction on climate change, inspired her to paint Winton’s portrait.

She soon discovered that a painting of Winton had never been a finalist in the Archibald Prize.

“Then I found out why – he was a reluctant subject,” wrote Jones in her artist’s submission.

“When I flew to Perth for a sitting, the Great Barrier Reef was suffering its fifth mass bleaching event in eight years. Tim was warm and witty.”

The pair bonded over a shared love of the environment. “He has fought so hard to save Ningaloo Reef, and he said about Ningaloo that it’s a place that could teach us how to get things right if we just pause a moment and listen,” Jones said in her speech.

She added Winton rang her on Friday morning to congratulate her. He joked that in the portrait “he looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders”.

“He does, and we all do. I hope that we can all unite for the environment,” she said.

Winton is an outspoken activist for marine conservation. At part of his Perth Festival closing address in 2022, he called out the arts industry for accepting sponsorship from fossil fuel companies.

Man walks along white sand of beach with turquoise blue water
Author Tim Winton, pictured at Ningaloo, is an advocate for marine conservation in WA. (Supplied: BlueMediaExmouth)

Speaking to the ABC afterwards, he said: “Let’s face it — banks, super groups, investor groups, they’re all divesting of fossil fuels.

“Why should the arts industry, in particular, and why should community organisations be less imaginative and less morally aware than bankers?”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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