Ben Quilty's portrait of Margaret Olley wins this year's Archibald Prize.
Born in Lismore in 1923, Olley was awarded the Order of Australia in 1991 for service as an artist and to the promotion of art. In 1996, she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia.
‘She’s such an inspiration,’ says Quilty. ‘She was a feminist ahead of her time. She’s vigorously passionate about social and political issues, as well as art, and is enormously compassionate. Margaret has such an infectious attitude to both life and death. Recently, I was amazed at how many new works she had on the go. She said to me, “I’m like an old tree dying and setting forth flowers as fast as it can, while it still can.” I thought that was such a powerful metaphor.’
As for the bright palette: ‘You just need to walk into her home, which is also her studio, to see that you couldn’t use anything but striking colour. It’s full of translucent works-in-progress, beautiful drawings, sculptures and flowers, so I wanted the portrait to reflect that.’
16 Apr – 26 Jun 2011
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney