WINNER OF THE BATHURST PORTRAIT PRIZE 2010
Noel Tovey 2009
Actor, dancer, singer, director, choreographer, writer, teacher and author of “Little Black Bastard”.
Oil on canvas 122 x 183 cm
Judge: Louise Doyle – Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Noel Tovey is a very well known Australian theatrical celebrity. He made his name in the sixties in major West end productions such as Oh Calcutta, the Boy Friend and Anything Goes etcetera
Noel Tovey’s autobiography “The Little Black Bastard” has attracted major interest both locally and internationally.
The composition of my portrait was conceived after consideration of Noel as an ‘elder statesman’ of the theatre and the salient fact that while still theatrically active he is essentially currently concentrating on intimate and very personal introspective concerns.
In a relatively large scale painting I sought to establish an up close tactile surface, a microscopic investigation of Noel’s face. Ideally I hoped to penetrate his actor’s ability to present and control his outer demeanour behind a theatrical mask and convey some of the sense of the intensity of his current personal introspection. I chose a low (staged) view point, cropping the face to the essential landmarks, even angling the head to only permit visual access to only one eye, so as to convey his single (minded) focus. This single eye does not confront the viewer but instead gazes off into the distance somewhat meditatively. By painting in a semi-modernist flat bi-coloured background, I attempted to establish a sense of quietude, an alternative to the intensity of the large scale close-up naturalistic countenance. But unlike the portrait, if seen as a naturalistic horizon, it has an elevated viewpoint. Ideally these two simultaneous viewpoints intensify a metaphoric and visual tension.