Guest Post: Wally Dali – Archibald Prize Finalists 2024: The Struggle Session Continues

The Archibald Prize for Portraiture 2024 can be best explained by assuming that the whole show has been captured by a cabal of Art’s enemies. The Archibald Trust, the trustees, the Art Gallery of New South Wales all display contempt for their own traditions, indeed their very constitutions, and seem to be frantic to embrace ditzy trends and shallow showiness. The 2024 finalists are some five dozen pieces varying from epic photographic imitation to unlovely planks of slap which infantilize subject, artist and viewer alike- with very little in between.

There are some gems amongst the styrofoam packing fill, though. Below is my “blink reaction” amateur enthusiast’s review- I’ve followed the discipline of freely commenting on celebrity (of which there is surprisingly few) but resisting the temptation to research subjects who I do not recognize (which I can assume are achingly worthy Lifetime Achievers or Up and Coming children).

Please! Open up the AGNSW pixels on a parallel window, comment on individuals and the whole, and please nominate-

-which piece you would have in your home and why-

-and which piece will win, and why.


Matt Adnate

Rhythms of heritage

I can assume that this is colossal. A huge photo overlaid with brush swipes and oily drips, quite disturbing detail of burgeoning beard, looking slightly down upon the viewer with the soft jaw of a burgeoning diabetic. I guess he’s Distinguished in Arts and Letters- the piece says “street wise and authentic” though the plastic hair says Milli Vanilli.

Holly Anderson

Not not a mother

Not interesting, despite the bathetic title and blown out abdomen. Why the stoopid woozy fishnet grid? The piece is an Instagram filter.

Jill Ansell

Pericles: just scratching the surface

A very close repetition of her previous entry/entries. The subject is an absent afterthought- and she’s muffed the hand. Badly.

Mostafa Azimitabar

Angus McDonald

Like in the fishnet mosaic from Anderson above, the artist has gone to great labour to hide the subject behind their own ditzy whim. Which appears to be grottage with a four-tine table fork. And, as above, has had a semi-genuine attempt at the eyes, which just makes it more awkward.

Eliza Birtwistle

Chanel Contos (smiling feminist)

Ah yes, the Distinguished in Arts and Letters Contos. Famous for being famous, as far as I know, here presented as a flat photograph, cut out on top of lotsa lotsa text- I pity the waif who labours to read it all. Very uncomfortable attempt at the crotch, very inconsistent finish- contrast the hands to the neck, her thighs to her feet. Hesitant touch is wanting in just the wrong place, her right eye. Assume the artist is a beginner.

Writing. Fail.

Drew Bickford


Pastiche. Fail.

Natasha Bieniek

Self-portrait with Florence

I think Bieniek put in a reasonably good selfie last year? This is going backwards, there’s an unfinished pastel shadow to it, and the more I look at her feet and the furniture, the arrangement is awkward. Plus, she’s got her mouth open…

Karen Black

Vivian Vidulich

A drippy drawing.

Mia Boe

Toe Knee Arm Strong

As far as I know, this bloke is famous for being a talking head on the telly. Maybe that’s why he’s presented as a puppet on a stage.

Infantile. By the cartoon contempt on the marionette’s face, I can only guess the subject was underwhelmed both going in and coming out.

Jessie Bourke

Different, not less

I’m finding this quite compelling for some reason, despite the very inconsistent application- her eye makeup is impeccable layers of subtle shine, her ear is cardboard. Maybe her pose is an uncanny balance of stillness and liveliness- “tension”, they call it I think. Good framing too, a bit off kilter.

Janis Clarke

Beckah in the studio

Undercooked. Finished like a colour study, no effort to background or clothing. With the subject offering a wary ¾, way back in the frame, it feels like a brief glance at a stranger- not the stuff of portraiture.

Emily Crockford

Singing with my selfie at the top of the world with my imagination

Repetition. And writing. Fail. This bird must be a diversity pick, although I do barrack for her appropriation of Papunya dots and Arnhem bars.

Dagmar Cyrulla

Le marriage

I do like the way this bloke uses close tone colour- sheesh, it’s what I used to work on- but this is an unfinished sketch. So noncommittal that the hands look AI. Good god, the top-left head looks like a nightmare.

Paul de Zubicaray

You can’t hurt me anymore

Close cousin of the 2022 winner, flat poster background, pictograms, “fierce” face. Provocative title wants us to ask, who is the “You” addressed? But honestly, the whole picture is such a one-dimensional cliché, I just don’t care. Even the runway bird is made up of make-up, there is no individual there.

Whitney Duan

Fluffy (Jordan Gogos)

Who is this person? What is this polyester kids’ picture book world he’s in? Why does the whole thing look like it’s done with coloured pencils? It’s very, very hard to imagine he’s Distinguished in Arts and Letters, and very very hard to imagine the artist makes a living.

Robert Fielding

Mayatja (keeper of song and culture)

Writing. Fail.

This awful picture looks like security footage.

Stephanie Galloway Brown

Kathrin Longhurst

Monotone. Fail.

Tho it could have been a very very good portrait, had she worked like the human heart does- in colour.

Oh hang on, there’s writing, too- Fail.

Shaun Gladwell

A spangled symbolist portrait of Julian Assange floating in reflection

Weird. But not strong enough to hold the attention. I suspect they were struggling to find enough neutral “political” content this year, and so put in this neutral bit of High School art.

Jaq Grantford

Ed Le Brocq: I am a centaur.

Moronically mis-assembled. The horse body is lit with brilliant daylight from above, even reflecting warmth off the ground to his underbelly. The tattoo’d poseur is lit laterally, and muffled by an interior gloom. It just doesn’t work, not by a long blow, the figure is an unnatural cut-n-paste.

Honestly, how the hell could an artist work away on a canvas for hours and hours and not realize such a simple rookie mistake, not even when it so obviously and irredeemably wrecks the illusion he was trying to carry off? Are they so hypnotized in reproducing their own reference photographs? Is the canvas so huge that the artist can’t get their senses around the whole thing?

David Griggs

Cold wind blows

Lame. Imported American Strip Mall Gothic, High School level execution. Does not function as a portrait.

Craig Handley


A very odd picture, for some reason with an affected fade-to-red shadow injected. One bloke looks off sideways, another one- maybe the same bloke in an ironic t-shirt- looks out over our heads in a rigor of… dementia? Is it a stageplay thing? Is he meant to look like his own props?

The subject is so guarded and unnatural, I don’t think it works as portraiture.

Tsering Hannaford

Meditation on seeing (portrait of Dad)

Looks like a very confident painting, of a bloke with some presence and attitude. Overall soft and affectionate glow is like one of those Grand Ole Gentleman paintings from American courthouses, but the bloke is so suburban that it’s genuinely immediate. Pretty sure that Hannaford Snr is a painter, too.

With just a clue of something- anything- in the background, it would have been really something.

Nicola Higgins

Missy with her ukulele

An pervy view of the lady- a bit of predatory claustrophobia seen in the overlapping Monsteria leaves making the viewer fell like he’s looming over a chick on the carpet (and betrays the photographs used). But paint-wise, I can really dig it- the carpet, merle cotton dress, her skin are all nicely underdone, varied in touch and blend in that lovely and too-rare illusion in figurative art where the process and the product are as one.

But, weirdly, you wouldn’t pick her as Missy Higgins.

Yoshio Honjo

Akira Isogawa

Pastiche. Fail.

Ben Howe

Kylie and Sami

So, it appears that most of the subjects in Australia exist in front of a background of collage, text and animal motif familiars. It’s all a bit brain-dead actually.

Far too photorealistic to be moving.

Laura Jones

Tim Winton

Looks like overdue homework, done on the bus.

Laura E Kennedy

Fluroscuroreduo (diptych after Natasha Bieniek)

It’s all a bit incestuous, this art gas eh?

She’s got Statement glasses, tatts and a computer mouse under her hand. She looks dull.

Daniel Kim

Blue jeans and flowers

So much smartphone lens distortion, and subjects made of paste.

Sam Leach

Louise Milligan

Succeeds in portraying Milligan as Machiavellian, piggish and self-satisfied.

Angus McDonald

Professor Marcia Langton AO

You can’t type Professor Marcia Langton AO without acknowledging that she’s had a rails run to the highest privilege of Australian life, despite being to all accounts an increasingly bitter and nasty piece of work. For some reason, she’s portrayed here rolling her eyes at the ceiling. The clouds are rubbish. As a human portrait, it’s actually quite ok, but Langton cannot carry off the St Sebastian expression. I suspect it may be colossal.

Guido (Guy) Maestri

Obscured self-portrait.

Only the seriously anally-retentive can produce a self-portrait this conceited.

Kelly Maree

Josh Heuston

Photograph. Fail.

Scott Marsh

Big mood

Odd. Composed by photograph. The face is awkwardly offset from the body, like it’s someone else’s face sticking through a cut-out hole in a sideshow amusement. Yeah that’s what it looks like- Travelling Circus truck artwork.

Julian Meagher

Fozz – 2024

AKA Craig Foster, a cardboard cut-out sportsperson-cum-reactionary intellectual and notorious barracker for Hamas. This sanctimonious boundary rider haunts the Archibald. Someone should draw a swastika on his forehead.

Camellia Morris

Wild Wild Wiggle

Pastiche. Fail

Danny Morse

Sean and Claire and Sharon and Debbie

I do not know who these people are, and this lazy and unfinished slap-up does not make me want to care. There is a distressing amount of flat, thick, unfinished slippery in the paintings this year. It’s rubbish.

Anna Mould


Not an honest attempt to portray a subject. Fail.

Kirsty Neilson

Cheng Lei- after China

Interesting gaze from the lady, tho a bit of a cliché “arty” pose. Let down by a lot of busy flat fill. And black- black on the canvas flattens the composition brutally, it should be avoided like a cliché.

Tim Owers

On the bench and on the cusp (portrait of Courtnee Vine)

I like Courtnee- and here she looks thoughtful, present, and let’s face it, blokey. Maybe her colouring against the brick and timber setting was serendipitous- but it’s definitely handled very, very skillfully, and even though the brushwork of her face is painterly, there’s enough definition to make her pop forward from the background, giving a perfect depth to the cottage scene.

Good painting, but methinks the Matildas are not “hot” enough for this one to win this year.

Laura Peacock

Peter at home

Naff. What’s going on with the babyish figures and the found-object materials this year? Is it a recession thing, or a cultural cringe response where artists don’t want to be seen to be trying too hard?

Meaghan Pelham

Highlight in the moonlight

Faux-infantile, writing, drawing- fail, fail, fail.


Thea Anamara Perkins

Mum (Hetti)

A tiny head hesitates in front of a fingerpainted landscape.


Simon Richardson

Portrait of Fiona Pardington

It’s not that I don’t like the painting, it’s just that I feel I wouldn’t be impressed by the person. Silly tattoos, ironic icon scatter cushions, a French Bulldog, and Inside dog, an Inside On The Furniture On Laps dog… she’d be a total tosser, for sure.

Technically, tho, it’s very well done. This is how you do black, very carefully and sparingly, with a bit of hue to it all the way. Clever weatherboards in the top left pull you into the depth. Even the interior designer’s no-no of distractions in the corners don’t wreck it.

Thom Roberts

Big Bamm-Bamm

Why do the curators keep picking this clown, doing the same lazy painting with the same gimmick, year after year?

Adrian Jangala Robertson

Jumpin’ Julie, Yuendumu

Embarrassing. Surely this is a Diversity Target finalist.

Sally Ross


Looks queer. Is this bloke really Distinguished in Arts and Letters? Presented with no background in the painting and no engagement with the gaze, it’s hard not to think that this adolescent and a lot of the other entrants are just chancing it, and if they can get on the Archibald bandwagon, then that’s a right of return for years to came.

Kean Onn See

Margaret Ackland

Looks almost alright, but the hands are hideous. Pointless, the rest of the elements are so precisely composed that photographs are obviously implied- why not just trace the hands after all?

Kris Andrew Small


Pastiche. Fail

Ben Smith

If you can see it, you can be it

Inconsistent, to the point of spoilage. A photograph of a face sits on top of a fudgy afterthought of a setting. It’s like it was actually worked on by two different artists.

The bloke looks like a knob, with un-ironic Elliot Goblet glasses and his top button done up.

“If you can see it, you can be it” is the statement of a knob, and/or groomer, too.

Nick Stathopoulos

The last picture show- portrait of David Stratton

Drawing. Fail.

Liz Sullivan


Waste of a potentially sensational subject. A anaemic bit of mess on canvas.

Natasha Walsh

The marriage of Nicol and Ford

Queer with a capital Q. I assume it’s compulsory now, like transvestites on Play School. But a lazy and shallow painting with it, as if that counts for anything.

Oliver Watts

Last King of the Cross

Visual déjà vu. The subject is slapped like a ham by a barrage of pastel lozenges, which cannot disguise the precision of photography underneath.

Digby Webster

Trevor my filmmaker with camera

I wish they’d stop putting cod-kindergarten paintings in. It’s just so fatiguing.

One or two, fine, whatever, neurodivergent or plurosomy, whoop. But there’s just so many here now that they drag the whole show down. Which is probably the unstated aim of the curators.

Marcus Wills


A gooooood, earthy, earnest painting. A bit simple, maybe, and a pity about the black shirt, but there’s a lot to drink in as the eye wanders around the latent power in his eyes, face, and posture.

Zoe Young

Jill’s at Bills

Photographic distortion, collage-made face. Fail.

Caroline Zilinsky

A lucid heart- the golden age of Jacob Elordi

Drawing. Fail.

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Delta A
Delta A
June 1, 2024 10:17 am

An excellent overview, Wally.

TBH, I wouldn’t want any of them hanging in my house, although the wild Wiggle would be great in a play room.

Succeeds in portraying Milligan as Machiavellian, piggish and self-satisfied.

Ouch! (Ha ha.)

Succeeds in portraying Milligan as Machiavellian, piggish an

Last edited 23 days ago by Delta A
June 1, 2024 10:24 am

the divershity, inclusion and equity is so strong it reeks a mile away

June 1, 2024 10:40 am

1st – On the bench and on the cusp (portrait of Courtnee Vine) Tim Owers
I don’t know who Courtnee Vine is, nor do I care, but the artwork is fine.
2nd – Natasha Bieniek Self-portrait with Florence Spoilt by being inaccurate. She is sitting up but with no support for her posture. But she captures the Everymum with a sick kid.There are no other prizes.

Dr Faustus
Dr Faustus
June 1, 2024 10:40 am

Great post, thank you.

The Archibald would improve greatly if the curators automatically excluded careful copies of photographs that look like photographs and anything ‘naive’ and ‘childlike’. There are other places to display these images: coffee table books of ‘art photos’ and primary school halls.

The only portrait I’d consider is the Hannaford of Robert Hannaford.

Perplexed of Brisbane
Perplexed of Brisbane
June 1, 2024 11:17 am

Great post Wally. Thanks for the effort.

I’d rather let Dover select paintings for the Archibald. Should be a very small field.

There are no Caravaggios or Shishkins there. Thanks Dover for showing them to this artistic ‘philistine’.

I agree with Zippster about the DEI and wokeness.

June 1, 2024 11:27 am

Thanks for putting in the work for this post.

I wouldn’t pay money for any of them, having been spoiled by Dover’s choice of artworks and seeing the real thing in galleries.

There have been periods in history where nothing interesting happened in painting and related fields, and unfortunately, this seems to be one of them.

Margaret Preston is a better artist than all of them put together.

Wally Dalí
Wally Dalí
June 1, 2024 12:46 pm

My pick – Missy by Nicola Higgins
because it’s a pretty bit of soft erotic art which I could imagine spending time with. Tho the burnt-white strings of the ukulele would bug me a lot- I think it’s a result of using a digital photo for reference, and bumping up the brightness.
My tip for winner – Fiona Pardington by Simon Richardson
because an environment of pre-recession austerity will actually push the judges back to classicism, and I’m guessing she’s a successful race-politics Kiwi, which will allow the sooks to cock a snook.
Hundred-to-one chance – Rhythms of Heritage by Matt Adnate

Wally Dalí
Wally Dalí
June 1, 2024 12:50 pm

Sorry, hit a button too soon- outsider
Rhythms of Herigtage by Matt Adnate
a palate cleanser from the current Firsts Nationses celebrity class, who have kinda blotted their copy book. Young, phresh, globohomo, and confirming the packing room pick allows the judges to be Down With The Working Class, too.

June 1, 2024 4:50 pm

Thanks, Wally, for saving me the effort of schlepping out to see this mess of non portraits with mates who love this stuff. I’ve been so disappointed the last few years with these pathetic offerings and it’s clear from your excellent summary that it’s getting worse, not better. Not wasting my time and money on it this year

The packing room prize usually saves a tiny bit of face but I hated it on sight when it was triumphantly announced in the MSM.

June 1, 2024 4:51 pm

Good post Wally. Pretty much agree. Like you, photorealism is a big turn off. Inclined to agree with your choice of winner too. A bit too much in the renaissance style for me but with the soft focus background spoiling it. I like artists to draw the essence of a person out to make them look alive.

June 1, 2024 5:20 pm

Thanks, Wally. Your incisive critique made me go back for a third look, as I was so underwhelmed by the first two visits to this unimpressive collection of crap. I am still unable to see anything worth better than sixth prize.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
June 1, 2024 5:30 pm

I do actually like a couple of them.

Jaq Grantford

Ed Le Brocq: I am a centaur

Neat idea for a portrait, plus a nice bit of equestrian art!

Whitney Duan

Fluffy (Jordan Gogos)

Reminiscent of the Charles III blood painting: face and hands and in this case something much more interesting than lots and lots and lots of blood.

June 1, 2024 6:54 pm

The yaartz has been so captured by collectivists that I’ve been revelling in my philistinism for decades.

However, there’s nothing wrong with the odd bit o’ Botticelli, for example … 🙂

Trigger warning: Scantily clad siren

June 1, 2024 9:24 pm

Detest the Packing Room winner as it reeks of smugness and condescension. I wouldn’t buy it in a pink fit.

I like Wild Wild Wiggle by Camellia Morris. The pose made me laugh though the facial expression is anything but humorous. Still wouldn’t buy it or give it space in my home.

I am intrigued by Akira Isogawa by Yoshio Honjo. I don’t see how a dragon relates to a fashion designer. Is he a fire breather in his professional life? The black and yellow tripes give more an impression of a bee or a wasp than a dragon. A waspish fashion designer? Would I buy it? Perhaps for the garage.

June 2, 2024 9:49 am

OK, Wally – just done the wade through as per your suggestion.

Excruciating garbage.

All of it.

With the possible sole exception (as you’ve noted) being the Missy Hoggins pic.

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