Archibald Prize 2021 ANZ People’s Choice award winner Julia Ciccarone The sea within, oil on linen, 101.5 x 183.5 cm © the artist Source: AGNSW / Felicity Jenkins.

Julia Ciccarone Takes Home Archibald People’s Choice Prize For Self-portrait

Julia Ciccarone, a two-time Archibald Prize finalist, has won the 2021 ANZ People’s Choice award for her mesmerising self-portrait ‘The sea within’, which she painted at home during the 2020 Melbourne lockdown in reaction to “dramatic changes impacting society and environment.”

The artist, who lives in Alphington, Victoria, painted herself laying barefoot, with wet hair and paintbrushes in her hand, covered in a blanket from her youth and resting her head on a suitcase her father brought to Australia from Italy when he immigrated in the 1950s.

“When I painted this work, life was intense and overwhelming. It’s hard to believe that we are still experiencing times of great uncertainty, more than a year on,” Ciccarone said, speaking from home, where she is once again under lockdown.

“I believe we share a collective trauma. But the ocean – which features large in my life and art – is my healing place.

“Water is a universal symbol of the unconscious mind. Whenever I dive into the ocean, I am diving into my own subconscious, awake and aware. It brings me great joy to know that so many people connected with my work.”

Ciccarone, who was born in Melbourne in 1967, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1988.

As the recipient of the Verdaccio Studio grant from the Australia Council’s Visual Arts and Crafts Board in 1991, she resided and worked in Italy. She was a finalist in the Archibald Prize in 2013 and the Sulman Prize in 2014, as well as a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2014.

Ciccarone’s moving portrait was the favourite of visitors to the Archibald Competition exhibition and the 360-degree immersive virtual visit in the 100th year of the renowned prize, according to Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand.

“Julia Ciccarone is an accomplished painter whose highly detailed work immediately struck a chord with audiences,” he said.

“Her depiction of vulnerability in a time of uncertainty continues to resonate as we once again navigate life in lockdown and seek both solace and shared connections through art.”

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