UN­VEIL­ING

American Art Collector - - Contents - BY CHRIS­TINE EGNOSKI

In­ter­na­tion­ally known award­win­ning artist Evert Ploeg is one of Aus­tralia’s most highly re­garded por­trait artists. A mem­ber of the Por­trait So­ci­ety of Amer­ica for over 15 years, he has also served on the fac­ulty of the an­nual the Art of the Por­trait con­fer­ences. In June, he un­veiled his paint­ing of Univer­sity of Mel­bourne law pro­fes­sor Michael Crom­melin. The por­trait was com­mis­sioned as part of the law school’s 160th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion and in recog­ni­tion of Crom­melin’s ten­ure as the dean. At the un­veil­ing Ploeg said, “It’s al­ways a great honor to paint the por­trait of some­one so well­re­spected and de­serv­ing, such as pro­fes­sor Michael Crom­melin.”

While thank­ing the law school, Crom­melin also thanked Ploeg, re­mark­ing, “I owe an enor­mous debt to the artist. While I still don’t know how he did it, I am en­thralled by the re­sult.”

Ploeg starts each project with a com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing a nar­ra­tive, find­ing what is unique and in­di­vid­ual about the sit­ter, and then por­tray­ing them in a con­tem­po­rary and mod­ern light. In their first meet­ing to­gether, Ploeg dis­cov­ered that as dean, it was Crom­melin’s vi­sion and lead­er­ship that con­trib­uted to a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion to the cur­rent law school build­ing, which fea­tures large, ex­pan­sive and im­pres­sive glass win­dows. Later dur­ing their meet­ing, Ploeg re­mem­bered him say­ing, “con­nec­tions…to be con­nected with what was hap­pen­ing not only within the walls of the law school but to be uni­ver­sally con­nected to the out­side world.” This be­came the mantra of Ploeg’s nar­ra­tive, and from there he was able to de­velop a com­po­si­tion that was en­gag­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing and echoed Crom­melin’s sen­ti­ments.

The ini­tial de­sign con­cepts were pre­pared with mul­ti­ple Pho­to­shop lay­ers. This gave the artist an ex­cel­lent pre-vis­ual as the build­ings needed to be re­versed in the re­flected glass. It also al­lowed for easy ma­nip­u­la­tion to achieve the de­sired il­lu­sion. Crom­melin vis­ited Ploeg’s stu­dio in Syd­ney for two live sit­tings to com­plete the color ren­di­tion di­rectly on the art­work. Ploeg ex­plains, “I had Michael gaze up­ward and out­ward, much like the cap­tain of a ship, bring­ing his crew to the fu­ture. Choos­ing twi­light as a time set­ting cre­ated the ex­tra drama and con­trast, with the of­fice lights giv­ing the im­pres­sion of things hap­pen­ing, peo­ple work­ing, elec­tri­cal en­ergy, com­mu­ni­cat­ing…a con­nec­tiv­ity.” He con­tin­ues, “I felt chal­lenged to cre­ate a paint­ing that con­veyed that. It is why I like do­ing por­traits: you get to go into some­one’s story, go into their lives… and if my por­trait may in­spire just one per­son, then that’s what I think is cool about the whole thing.”

Pro­fes­sor Michael Crom­melin, oil on linen, 45 x 54"

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