Melbourne artist, Vincent Fantauzzo has won the 2009 Archibald People’s Choice Prize for his portrait of child actor Brandon Walters.
Vincent Fantauzzo was highly commended at last year’s Archibald Prize for his triple-image portrait of his friend Heath Ledger, painted just weeks before the actor’s death. The painting also won the People’s Choice Award.
This year his subject is Brandon Walters, who played the young boy Nullah opposite Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia. Born and raised in an Indigenous community near Broome, Western Australia in 1996, Walters was diagnosed with leukaemia at age six but overcame the cancer after a year in hospital. He had never acted before performing in Australia.
Fantauzzo first became aware of Walters when Luhrmann, a friend of the artist’s, called and told him what an ‘amazing kid’ he was. "I thought it would be great to meet him and that he and his family might be an interesting subject for a portrait," says Fantauzzo. "He was really shy at first but as I got to know him he became bubbly and excited. He has already experienced a lot as a child, which I believe adds to his presence."
Fantauzzo worked on various portraits in his Melbourne studio, including one of Walters with his father, and another of his mother. For this painting, he did a couple of fully finished sketches. Fantauzzo decided to focus on Walters’ face for a couple of reasons. "He has a very intense gaze and amazing eyes and I wanted the feel of the harsh Australian sun across his face."
Born in England in 1977, Fantauzzo came to Australia as a child. He has a Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) and a Master of Fine Art from RMIT University, Melbourne. Last year he was awarded an artist’s residency at Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong. He has also had many solo exhibitions.
Vincent Fantauzzo receives $2,500 and a $1,000 Myer gift card for winning the People’s Choice.
Each year a voter for the Archibald painting which receives the most votes is selected to win $2,500 and a $1,000 Myer gift card. The lucky winner is Anne McKenzie from Western Australia who voted for Vincent Fantauzzo’s painting of Brandon.
This is the 21st year of the People’s Choice Prize. 33629 people voted this year. Hong Fu’s portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was the second most popular painting.