Like a Bridge
2022 Lord Mayor's Prize
Proudly supported by
Brisbane City Council
About the artwork and sitter
This portrait is a tender portrayal of the artists mother, who lives in aged care in Burpengary. It shows a floating figure, dressed in yellow playing a banjo.
McDonald is known for painting people and animals, always with a quick application of paint, and an immediate, fluid and non fussy, freshness with clean lines, and a solid linen background. The work relies as much on what is not there as what is included.
He says of this work: “Roughly two years ago I took Mum to Brisbane to live due to her poor health after being in an accident. It was a hard time on our family. Mum is a loving person, with a love of music and the arts; a true bohemian. I bought her the banjo to play. The title came from the song like a bridge over troubled water, that mum and I love.”
About the artist
Darren McDonald has been painting for over 25 years. His work is represented in the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia and Monash University. He has been a finalist in many prizes.
There is a sparsity to this large, brave work, where the artist does so much with so little. It’s a beautiful story, of a son’s love for his mother, an artist and musician, as he deals with her ill-health and moving her into care.
This uncompromising way of painting is an exciting opportunity to see a work that has been made in a moment. It’s a very fresh work, there’s a sense to which one can imagine that the paint is still wet and it’s in the act of becoming.
The artist has resisted painting the background creating space around the figure and painting directly onto the linen. This creates a jaunty tension, with the diagonal placement of the figure creating its own, suspended energy. There’s a sense to which you are both held and moved around the canvas in a centrifugal way.
The title is as enigmatic as the painting itself. It’s as if this woman is a bridge across the canvas, aided by the yellow dress. Clearly mothers are bridges across families and generations, and in this work, she becomes a gentle, yet formidable force. There’s a tenderness with the contradiction that whilst she’s in her later years, there’s a real strength in the strong female form, which her artist son has depicted embracing life and love.
Assistant Director, Artistic Programs
Art Gallery of South Australia
Chief Judge 2022
Lisa Slade describes the winning work at the 2022 Brisbane Portrait Prize Opening Night.