Wedderburn artist eyes Archibald Prize

Eyes on the prize: David Fairbairn in his happy place — surrounded by his artwork in his Wedderburn studio. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Eyes on the prize: David Fairbairn in his happy place — surrounded by his artwork in his Wedderburn studio. Picture: Jonathan Ng

WEDDERBURN'S David Fairbairn is up for the most prestigious portrait art prize in Australia.

This year's Archibald Prize has 41 finalists and Fairbairn is one of the chosen ones.

The short-listed work, titled Large head JB No. 1, was one in a series of more than 50 pieces where Fairbairn painted people sitting in a chair.

"There's an intensity about my work," he said. "An underlying melancholic unease.

"The portrait up for the prize is one of those that are quite startling.

"I've never done the celebrity thing like some artists for the Archibald, just people."

An exhibition of Fairbairn's work from the past 14 years will be also displayed at Campbelltown Arts Centre from the end of March.

He has been short-listed for the Archibald "eight or nine times" and has previously won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2002 — an award Fairbairn says is just as sought after as the Archibald.

Living in Wedderburn is very harmonious for his painting.

"I love living here in the bush, it's very congenial for my work," he told the Advertiser.

"When I'm here I'm completely at peace.

"The best way I can get along with myself is seven or eight hours a day surrounded by my paintings. It's heaven.

A "community of artists" lives in Wedderburn.

They include Elisabeth Cummings, John Peart and Fairbairn's wife, Suzanne Archer.

The special exhibition of Fairbairn's work will be displayed at Campbelltown Arts Centre from the end of March.

"I'd expect people to be challenged and go away and think about how images are put together," he said.

"The best work I do always end up in a collection somewhere.

"Most of this work has been borrowed back.

"It's good for me to see them again."

Campbelltown Arts Centre director Michael Dagostino said the exhibition — Lineage: David Fairbairn selected portraits 1998-2011 — illustrates Fairbairn's extensive thought processes behind his work.

The official launch is on Saturday, March 31 at 2pm, with many activities to be staged including an artist talk and drawing workshop on Saturday, April 21.

Details: 4645 4100 or campbelltownartscentre.com.au.