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Federation alumnus eyes Archibald Prize

Posted: Wednesday 2 June 2021

A painting by renowned artist and former Federation University Australia student Graeme Drendel has been shortlisted for Australia's most prestigious portrait award, the Archibald Prize. 

In a last-minute decision just two weeks before entries closed, Mr Drendel painted a portrait of long-time friend and Federation University lecturer and performance artist Dr Jill Orr. 

The pair first met when they were art students during the 1970s. 

The painting is the second portrait Mr Drendel has painted of Dr Orr and was completed within just a couple of hours. 

The painting is just 20 by 25 centimetres, which is considered a small entry for the Archibald Prize. 

Mr Drendel’s art has been displayed in major exhibitions across Australia for the past 30 years and this is the second of his portraits to be shortlisted for the Archibald Prize. 

Much of his work features individuals or groups of figures in a landscape, often taking inspiration from his upbringing in the Mallee. 

Mr Drendel grew up in Ouyen in far north-west Victoria and moved to Ballarat in the early 1970s to study art at the School of Mines Ballarat, now Federation University, and the Ballarat Teachers' College in 1971 and 1972.  

He then moved to Melbourne to complete a Secondary Art and Craft degree at Melbourne State College where he met Dr Orr. 

There are 52 works shortlisted for the Archibald Prize this year, with the winner to be announced on Friday 4 June.   

Quotes attributable to artist Graeme Drendel 

“It was a real thrill to be selected, particularly because the painting is very tiny and it’s usually the larger paintings that get the most attention.” 

“I just really love the process. It's such a privilege to have somebody sit for a couple of hours so you can just observe them and really just get into that painting process.” 

"I've tried to capture everything about Jill's face. While I'm painting, I'm not thinking of any particular psychological depth that I want to portray or anything – in the end it just comes out through the intense observation." 

Quotes attributable to Federation University’s Dr Jill Orr 

“It was a complete honour that Graeme invited me to sit for him. He was amazing and has captured a familiar likeness. It's strange, really, seeing how others see one's self, a bit like a version of 'self and others' but it is 'self seen by others'.” 

“Graeme and I share our art school days which are very special moments in our lives. Both being practicing artists is also something that I treasure. It is the life-long engagement with the creative process that we both understand so well.”  

“It is a thrill to have the portrait in the infamous Archibald Prize. It doesn't matter what the outcome will be, it is a wild ride just getting there.” 

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