Nick Stathopoulos, Deng 2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 137.5 x 137cm
Credit: Courtesy of the artist and AGNSW

Deng, a stunningly realised portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut executed with immersive verisimilitude by Sydney artist Nick Stathopoulos, has won the Peoples Choice award in the 2016 Archibald Prize.

A five-time entrant into the nation’s biggest portraiture prize, Stathopoulos painted Deng’s hyper-realistic portrait over a period of four months after his subject first caught his attention in a video advertisement for Deng’s alma mater, the University of Western Sydney. Deng came to Australia having grown up as a child soldier in Sudan before putting himself through law school. He now works as a refugee advocate and community leader.

“It must be some sort of magic, but Nick really captured what’s underneath my skin in his painting,” Deng said in a statement, adding that while he was humbled by the recognition, he finds it hard to look at the portrait, “not least because my nose looks so big!”

“I don’t think we give the general public enough credit when it comes to matters of art,” added Stathopoulous, who claims a $3,500 prize for his achievements. “In my experience they are very clued-in. And when it comes to the Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award, they seem to get it right every year… I’m delighted they chose my portrait of Deng Adut. It’s a great affirmation.”

This year’s main prize was won by a first-time entrant into the nation’s most prestigious portraiture competition, Melbourne artist Louise Hearman, whose painterly portrait of (problematic) veteran entertainer Barry Humphries took home top honours. The Wynne, Sulman and Trustees’ Watercolour Prizes were awarded to an all-female group of artists, a first for the nation’s most high profile prize, with the Ken Sisters, Esther Sullivan and Leah Bullen winning each respective title.

The 2016 Archibald Prize is viewable at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until October 9. More information is available here. 

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of the artist and AGNSW