'What The Heck': Portrait Of Montaigne Wins 2023 Archibald Prize

5 May 2023 | 2:09 pm | Dan Cribb

“I’m not going to break into song, but it is really surreal.”

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Aussie singer-songwriter Montaigne (aka Jessica Cerro) is seemingly speechless after a portrait of them has claimed the 2023 Archibald Prize.

Julia Gutman’s Head in the sky feet on the ground, a work created with oil, found textiles and embroidery on canvas, has been awarded the prestigious $100,000 prize. 

In response to a portrait of them being selected as the winner, Montaigne simply shared, “what the heck…”

“I was really honoured to be chosen as a finalist let alone win this. I wouldn’t be making art if it wasn’t for my parents. I am very elated and clearly very elated to have won,” Gutman said, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I’m not going to break into song, but it is really surreal.”

On working with Montaige, Gutman noted: “My practice is broadly concerned with community and intimacy, so I wanted to work with someone I know well.

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“Jess and I have been friends for a few years and there is a lot of alignment in our practices; we are both interested in creating our own forms and approaches rather than strictly adhering to any one tradition.

“Montaigne’s work defies genres, while her mercurial soprano has become an indelible part of the fabric of Australian music.

“In this Archibald portrait, her pose mimics that of Egon Schiele’s Seated woman with bent knees, a painting of his wife Edith that subverted conventional representations of femininity when he composed it in 1917.

“Like Edith, Montaigne’s figure is distorted: at once angular and soft, representational and imagined. She sits in a vaguely suggested landscape, fragmented by a translucent screen, online and offline at once.”

Musicians frequently appear in the annual award – named after renowned journalist and Art Gallery of NSW trustee JF Archibald – with Briggs, L-FRESH The LION, Ngaiire, Deborah Conway and more featured in recent years, while a portrait of Australian music royalty Kate Ceberano took out the Packing Room Prize in 2021.

You can check out the portrait of Montaigne below.

'Head in the sky, feet on the ground' by Julia Gutman