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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

20/20 crystal clear in vision

Twenty years in the making, the National Portrait Gallery’s new exhibition 20/20 celebrates the institution’s significant, albeit relatively recent, contribution to Australian culture.

A number of iconic Australians from various walks of life have been represented in a spectacular array of styles, accentuating the diversity of Australian society and culture.

Each work was commissioned specifically for the exhibition, and NPG Director Angus Trumble said they will join the gallery’s 2,700 portraits of Australians “in telling and adding to the richness of the fibre of the story of Australian life we tell here through the collection”.

“I often say the coming together of the artists, the subject and the portrait that is the product of their unique encounter in time and space is a very unusual phenomenon in the history of art.

A diminutive painting of Tasmanian champion axeman David Foster by Jacqui Stockdale for 20/20, directly contrasts against Foster’s hulking stature. Photos Eva Schroeder.

“Today we’re witnessing that 20 times over, which is, in my estimation, without precedent,” he said.

Each portrait has also been supported by a donor, with close to $500,000 being contributed to fund the ambitious project that was completed in just 18 months.

One of the prepossessing portraits being presented is a painting of Tasmanian champion axeman David Foster by artist Jacqui Stockdale.

Foster, a hulking man, is representing in one of the more diminutive works hanging in the exhibition; its ironic presentation was done to draw the viewer in close to the work, and thereby establish intimacy.

A commissioned photograph, Stockdale then went over it with oil-based paint to complete her work.

Foster told Canberra Weekly the portrait captures his true essence.

“She’s captured me deep in thought, wondering what it was like 100 years ago and picturing my ancestors wood chopping.

“She’s done that very well … she didn’t have much to work with, so she’s done a pretty good job,” he smiled.

“My dad would have been pretty proud today; as a Tasmanian lad, this portrait is going to be here for the next 100 years so my great-grandkids can come … it’s great,” he said.

20/20: Celebrating twenty years with twenty new portrait commissions is on display at the NPG until 10 February 2019.

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