Mountains artists named Archibald Prize finalists

Mick Bales' painting selected as a 2014 Archibald Prize finalist.

Mick Bales' painting selected as a 2014 Archibald Prize finalist.

2014 Archibald finalist and Blackheath resident Mathew Lynn's portrait of artist Ken Unsworth (inspired by Fragonard).

2014 Archibald finalist and Blackheath resident Mathew Lynn's portrait of artist Ken Unsworth (inspired by Fragonard).

Mick Bales

Mick Bales

A quirky self-portrait set in a butcher's shop and a portrait of a distinguished artist that arose from an encounter in the Jamison Valley rainforest are 2014 Archibald Prize entries by Blue Mountains artists selected as finalists last Thursday.

Valley Heights artist Mick Bales' entry, Butchered, portrays the 59-year-old beheaded and in rows of meaty cuts alongside a proud butcher.

"It's a self-portrait, but as you who know me might expect, a portrait with a twist," Bales said.

"Initially the focus of the painting was intended to be primarily about myself, with my butchered body capturing feelings about the ageing process and the impact on the body of lifestyle choices.

"But working on the painting over the period of the 2014 federal budget it appeared at one stage that the butcher was taking on the appearance of the treasurer [Joe Hockey].

"I fought against this, but maybe there is still a remnant of that man that could not be expunged totally from the image."

Bales said while there is an element of shock factor, he was trying to make it "not too gory".

"Yes, the severed head is an important part of it, but so is the meat on the shelves - in a way it's that 'every day' scene that really comes out.

"It's certainly quite different to anything I've done before and I think there will be very mixed responses to it.

"I enjoy looking at people's reactions, so I'm thrilled to be a finalist in a competition like the Archibald Prize for the first time."

Blackheath artist Matthew Lynn - who won the 2013 Packing Room Prize for his portrait of Tara Moss - also made this year's Archibald Prize shortlist for The Swing, his depiction of sculptor Ken Unsworth looking straight ahead in quiet contemplation.

"The thing I really love about this painting is a Blue Mountains event was the catalyst - the 2014 Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition in April amid the Jamison Valley rainforest," Lynn said.

"Curator Lizzy Marshall commissioned Unsworth to make a sculpture, an amazing colourful one called Harlequin's Shuffle that looked like it fell from outer space.

"So I met him properly for the first time there and I just thought it would be fantastic to paint him.

"He is such a wonderful, highly regarded artist - an elder statesman of Australian art but one that is still very active."

Lynn said the portrait was partly inspired by Fragonard's famous rococo-period work The Swing but also a swing he saw above a black stage during his follow-up visit to Unsworth's studio.

"So there are references to that but also it was a way to refer to his love of having things float around or levitate in a lot of his work."

The 54 portraits selected as finalists for the Archibald Prize this year will be exhibited in the Art Gallery of NSW from July 19 to September 28.

The winner will be announced this Friday.

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