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With her portrait of singer-songwriter Montaigne, 29-year old Julia Gutman becomes the 11th woman awarded Archibald, and one of the youngest in the prize’s 102-year old history.

Sydney-based artist Julia Gutman‘s Head in the Sky, feet on the Ground, uses a mix of oil, found textiles and embroidery on canvas to depict singer-songwriter Jessica Carro (who performs as Montaigne).

“I’m so elated and overwhelmed to have won,” Gutman admits. “It’s honestly completely surreal. I’m so grateful to be working at a time when young female voices are heard.” 

At first glance, it’s an expressionist work of art, but Gutman’s use of found textiles breaks the norm of conventions.

“Montaigne and I have been friends for a few years, and there is a lot of alignment in our practices; we are both interested in creating our own forms and approaches rather than strictly adhering to any one tradition,” Gutman continues.

“Montaigne’s work defies genres, while her mercurial soprano has become an indelible part of the fabric of Australian music.”

Gutman is a multi-disciplinary artist whose style explores themes of femininity, intimacy and memory.

She was included in the Primavera 2022: Young Australian Artists Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, was a finalist in the 2021 Ramsay Art Prize, and was awarded the Create NSW 2020 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship.

Also based in Sydney, Montaigne is among the most influential figures in the Australian indie music scene. She represented Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 and won the ARIA for Best Breakthrough Artist in 2016.

She is the first female musician to be the subject of an Archibald-winning portrait.

“It’s such an insane honour to be the Archibald Prize-winning sitter,” Montaigne said.

“I sure didn’t see it coming, not because I don’t believe in Julia’s incredible talent and warm heart, but because you just never think this stuff is going to happen to you. Thank you so much to Julia for seeing me as a worthy sitter for her beautiful vision.”

At just 29 years old, Gutman is one of the youngest winners and only the 11th woman to win in the Award’s long history.

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Archibald Prize 2023 winner Julia Gutman with her work 'Head in the sky, feet on the ground' at the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2023 winners announcement, Art Gallery of New South Wales

Her painting was one of the 57 finalists from 949 entries received this year, confirmed Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand.

“Like many contemporary artists, Julia is interested in the expanded field of painting. In this remarkable tender portrait of a young musician who is making her way in a tough business, we see an intimacy and vulnerability that is truly compelling,” Brand said.

“I congratulate Julia on creating this magnificently worthy winner.”

Zaacharia Fielding’s Inma won the Wynne Prize for 2023. The painting depicts the sounds of Mimili, a small community in the eastern part of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia

“I am going to write an amazing song about this experience. My heart is so full. I can’t wait to tell my family,” Fielding ecstatically said.

“This is a memory that I was able to document, which happened in Paralpi. It’s a place that’s like the Sydney Opera House for the APY Lands. It’s where people come to embrace and celebrate children, teaching them how to move and mimic their clan emblem, and, for Mimili, this has always been the maku (witchetty grub).”

The Art Gallery of NSW also awarded the Sulman Prize 2023 that went to Doris Bush Nungarrayi for her work Mamunya ngalyananyi (Monster coming), depicting several Mamus, the ominous and malevolent spirits that terrify Aṉangu.

Nungarrayi, born in Ikuntji/Haasts Bluff, is only the second Aboriginal artist to win the Sulman Prize.

All finalists in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2023 will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW from 6 May to 3 September 2023.

Archibald Prize 2023 will travel to six venues in Victoria and regional NSW, offering audiences outside Sydney the opportunity to see the finalists in the Archibald Prize 2023

To buy tickets, visit the Art Gallery website.

Archibald Prize 2023 tour

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery | 15 September – 5 November 2023
South East Centre for Contemporary Art, Bega | 18 November 2023 – 7 January 2024
Goulburn Regional Art Gallery | 19 January – 2 March 2024
Hawkesbury Regional Gallery | 15 March – 28 April 2024
Tamworth Regional Gallery | 11 May – 23 June 2024
Glasshouse Port Macquarie | 5 July – 18 August 2024