Taking the Lead
2022 Performing Arts and Music Award
Proudly supported by
Lister Family Foundation
About the artwork and sitter
This small, intense portrait of Zenin Smith, lead guitarist in rock band, Sunday Sesh, is one where the paint and the brushstrokes are a big part of the work.
Artist Stephen Tiernan has painted with oil on copper plate, giving the work a fresh and expressive look.
“Zenin is the step son of the artist. His mother is from the Brisbane McWhirter family who were the owners of the iconic Valley department store. Sunday Sesh is an up and coming band, who have played many gigs in Brisbane and have a loyal following of fans. They have recorded and released four singles. The band has been featured on Triple J’s ‘Short, Fast and Loud’ and the boys are on their way towards rock stardom.”
About the artist
Stephen Tiernan is serving as a Queensland police officer who lives on the Gold Coast and works in Brisbane. He has been shortlisted as a finalist in a number of major portrait prizes including the Brisbane Portrait Prize, The Archibald Salon des Refusés and the Percival Portrait Prize.
This tender portrait of musician Zenin Smith is a compelling work made using oil on copper, which has a real sense of immediacy. The gestural, visible brushstrokes create an energy which is all the more compelling because the portrait is so small.
As the lead guitarist in the band, Sunday Sesh, he comes across as a charismatic young man, who is looking off in a moment of reverie, a moment where he’s engaged elsewhere. This gives an impression of vulnerability and tension, as if he’s almost on the edge of his seat.
This is one of a number of paintings which really embraces the status of painting, leaving all the marks and process to be clearly experienced by the viewer. With a day job as a detective, this work shows Tiernan has a capacity to really see people.
I can’t help but think of Lucien Freud, an artist who has redefined painted portraits and paints with a muscular brush like Stephens, who also focusses on the eyes as a source of intensity and is not afraid to scumble a few painted gestures across the surface.
Assistant Director, Artistic Programs
Art Gallery of South Australia
Chief Judge 2022