Archibald winner leads battle for equality

2018 Archibald Prize winner Melbourne artist Yvette Coppersmith. Picture: AAPAs only the 10th woman to win the Archibald Prize in its 97-year history, Melbourne artist Yvette Coppersmith says that statistic is indicative of the art world as a whole.

“I think it’s reflective of the art industry, but also you see it in broader culture and I think they all have to catch up,” Coppersmith told AAP at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney on Friday after winning the portrait prize.

“I think every generation has to work to affect change. I don’t think you can rest on your laurels for equality, I think it’s an ongoing battle.”

Inspired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Coppersmith exudes strength and confidence in her self-portrait pose, standing face forward with a leg raised and a hand on her hip.

In a phone call with Ms Ardern broadcast on Sky News on Friday, who praised Coppersmith’s work as “incredible”, the shocked artist described her inspiration.

“You (Ms Ardern) were the initial inspiration and when you were unavailable I thought, ‘I’ll do one as you!’,” she told Ms Ardern.

It took the 37-year-old one week to create the oil painting which was her fifth to make the final of the $100,000 portrait prize.

“I was aware of that from my earlier self-portraits of communicating an image of a woman within a society that is saturated with images of women that are very disempowering or exploitative and how do you cut through that?” she said.

2018 Archibald Prize winner Melbourne artist Yvette Coppersmith poses for a photograph next to her oil and acrylic on linen painting ‘Self-portrait, after George Lambert’. Picture: AAP

“We’re still working within the language of a male gaze that has existed for centuries and trying to create images of women; we don’t have a language other than how can you give an image power to look back at the viewer, not just to be looked at.”

She said she had lost track of the rejections.

“I don’t think you want to believe any possibility that it would happen so you brace yourself for disappointment,” she said.

As an independent artist, Coppersmith plans to be sensible with the prize money and focus on sustaining her practise.

Coppersmith’s was one of 21 self-portraits out of the 57 in the final, along with portraits of notable figures such as rocker Jimmy Barnes, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and actor Guy Pearce.

The Wynne Prize of $50,000 for best landscape painting or figure sculpture went to WA indigenous n artist Yukultji Napangati, and the Sulman Prize of $40,000 for the best genre painting, subject painting or mural project, was awarded to indigenous n artist Kaylene Whiskey.

A new award was also introduced this year – the Roberts Family Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders prize of $10,000 to an indigenous finalist in the Wynne Prize.

The inaugural award went to 95-year-old artist Wawiriya Burton.

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