Dempsey’s People – A folio of street portraits 1824-44 @ National Portrait Gallery

29 June – 22 October 2017

A Portrait Gallery in a newish European transplanted society often lacks lots of the early stuff of the society they try to portray. The current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on a great set of water colour portraits painted by a traveling artist of people in the streets of English towns and villages during the two decades from 1824-1844. The people range from beggars to match sellers to heaps of other ordinary types of people that lived and worked in the streets at the time.

These are not Australian although they are sourced here, they are a marvelous portrayal of street society at the time the early mass movement of Europeans to Australia was first running. I loved being in the rooms for this. The artist Dempsey has a great eye for unique features in the people he paints. Great fabriccs, great hairstyles, amazing different styles of clothing and a fine representation of the diversity of human personality.

See some of the pics below with a website.


National Photographic Portrait Prize @ National Portrait Gallery

Prizes are problematic. The exhibition of the National Photographic Portrait Prize is the result of a judging panel of three, assessing a large collection of submissions of photographic portraits.This year their decision is one of the most baffling in all the years I have attended the exhibition.

We only see the shortlisted ones but within the exhibition there are dozen’s of photographs that eclipse the bland ordinary snap that has been nominated as the winning picture. Within the exhibition there are truly rich faces, bodies, relationships and contexts that are represented in complex inter-relationships with each other that engage the viewer with their detail and content.

I have placed some of the better examples below in phone pic.

The following link has the judges and the prize winners listed .

Digital Photographic Portrait Prize @ National Portrait Gallery

One of the fascinating annual events at the Portrait Gallery is the Digital Portrait Prize. This is a competition for portraits using short film and digital means or representing character. Each year the range is surprising. One this year is a shimmering piece of semi transparent fabric in which faces and parts of bodies, feet, hands and arms appear and disappear within the moving fabric. Beautiful and engaging. The winning portrait is a black and white film of a homeless man in the United States. To me the most beautiful feature in the exhibition was of a young man who is a world champion at unicycling. The portrait is filmed in the Fitters’ shed next to the Canberra Glasswork. The champion does a set of tricks that are filmed in low light sometimes in shallow water that create an engaging flow of beautiful energetic images.

Seven entries and all of them were delightful – I have included some stills below largely for my own reminders.

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Mysterious eyes Arthur Boyd portraits from 1945@ National Portrait Gallery

4 May -14 August

There was a set of portraits in the foyer gallery at the National Portrait Gallery.created by Arthur Boyd .  They were of people close to him in a period of his life. Being in the small entry gallery to the Portrait Gallery the set of portraits had an intimate closeness and gave an idea of people who had lots to do with each other.

Below are some samples of the portraits taken with a phone.

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National Photographic Portrait Prize @ National Portrait Gallery

Saturday 19 March until Sunday 26 June 2016

The vitality of the portraiture in the 2016 National Photographic Portrait Prize is wonderful.  Portraits can be a bit predictable but this set has some adventurous items  and some that capture an inspiring moment. The set embraces an amazing diversity of age and ethnicity in the subject material. Styles range from simple  face shots with plain backgrounds to complex contrived compositions that tell a range of stories through the objects within the photograph.

My favourites include a black and white image of nine cousins in a group on a field in which every member is revealing rich developing personality  traits.


There are several pictures of children in their various play and fantasy worlds.


There are celebrations of the newcomers

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The prize winner is a highly  constructed mix of lace, nudity and gnarled tree.20160326_122835

Overall it is a worthy collection of portraits.

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Bare – degrees of undress @ National Portrait Gallery

The current exhibition at the Portrait Gallery in Canberra is titled Bare. Lots of portraits are created focusing on fully clothed people. However as conventions have shifted the need to have diverse subjects increased. Lots of paintings have nude people in them but lots more are of people who are not fully clothed. Sporty people, entertainers, models, actors and relaxed people all often appear in limited clothing.
The Bare exhibition is beautifully laid out on bright blue walls with connection paths of yellow broken lines and arrows. I was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of the exhibition but the experience was a delight as the pics are varied, fun and always interesting.







Life and time – Portraits by Rod McNichol @ National Portrait Gallery

I am in my sixties and am aware of the facial and body changes that come with age and have seen the transformitive effect of time on what I look like. The small set of photographs by Rod McNichol in the entrance gallery of the National Portrait Gallery record changes over time in a selection of people. In this space they are combined with a point in time set of photographs of some of distinctive looking people.
I have included a sample below of the ones I liked the most. Once again the Portrait Gallery has brought portraiture to the public in a delightful way.