Brisbane Portrait Prize Accenture Digital Award

Marian Drew’s searching portrait of fashion designer Lydia Pearson has all the hallmarks of a still life but is patently a portrait, and an accomplished one at that. It’s one of the most refined examples in the Prize of the way in which an artist can remain true to their own visual language while simultaneously searching for an essential truth about their subject. All too often, a portrait can be drawn in a signature style in which the sitter can seem secondary to the artistic project. Not here, where the pictorial structure and devices of Drew’s image are an adroit match for what Pearson herself brings to the creative cutting table. Drew has long worked with studio constructed environments into which she dramatically inserts a figure or form of some kind, often in a transitory, oblique or surreal way, so her portrait of Pearson is as much about her as it is its subject – though neither the artist nor her sitter is made to ‘submit’ to the other. The crumpled paper that sculpts and forms the background could,
were it made from paint, be an equivalent of the wall to table modelling in a Cézanne still life; the arrangement of lemons adds a more strident colour note, straight out of Matisse’s playbook; and the hand-painted blue and white fabric design was likely inspired by a detail in a Mughal miniature. Accomplished artists like Marian Drew and designers like Lydia Pearson are invariably alert to the history of art and design. 

Chris Saines CNZM
Director, QAGOMA
Brisbane Portrait Prize Judge, 2019