The four-time Archibald Prize fi­nal­ist doesn’t mind not win­ning the cov­eted award. To her, the most im­por­tant part of the process is find­ing in­spi­ra­tion and know­ing she did her best

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - How I Make It Work -

Iwent through a lot of hy­po­thet­i­cals in pri­mary school about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be an opera singer, even though I can’t sing very well. I was in­ter­ested in fash­ion de­sign, too. But then I met a fan­tas­tic ca­reer ad­vi­sor in Year 10 and she posed the ques­tion: “If time and money were not an is­sue, what would you want to do ev­ery day?” I wanted to paint and draw.

This is the fourth time I’ve been a fi­nal­ist in the Archibald Prize. My pre­vi­ous sit­ters were Rose Byrne, John Safran and Paul Cap­sis. This year, it was [for­mer Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent] Gil­lian Triggs. What was a bit tricky was the fact that, given who she is, putting cer­tain vis­ual de­sign el­e­ments that I would nor­mally use into the paint­ing would not work. I also realised she was much more than her job. I think that’s what we for­get about our lead­ers; that they are peo­ple, too. When you de­hu­man­ise some­one – and I think it hap­pens to women in the pub­lic eye a lot – that’s when on­line trolling and abu­sive lan­guage hap­pens.

Nora Hey­sen was the first woman to win the Archibald in 1938, and it took 22 years for an­other woman to win.there is such a dis­par­ity with how many fe­male win­ners and sit­ters there are, com­pared to men. Yet 70 per cent of grad­u­ates from art school are women. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s trou­bling. Even though I don’t con­sciously think of my­self as a “fe­male” artist and that I need to fight for rep­re­sen­ta­tion, I prob­a­bly do it sub­con­sciously. I feel like I want an­swers.

The con­tro­versy this year with the win­ner of the Archibald high­lights how sub­jec­tive art is. Artist John Olsen said it was “the worst choice in the his­tory of the prize”. He’s en­ti­tled to his opin­ion, but given he was not one of the judges this year, speak­ing out is prob­a­bly fu­tile. What is “re­spectable” art, any­way? Ev­ery year works have got­ten through that I don’t think de­served it. And some years I haven’t agreed with the de­ci­sion of the win­ner. This year I felt com­fort­able with the de­ci­sion. If you’re an artist who has been re­jected, it doesn’t mean you should value some­one else’s opin­ion more highly than yours. As long as you’re mak­ing some­thing you feel happy with, that’s all you can re­ally do. You do you – there’s no for­mula for the Archibald. Yvette Cop­per­smith fea­tures in The Archibald, a four-part se­ries pre­mier­ing 7.30pm, Septem­ber 12, on Fox­tel Arts.

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