DAVID Darcy, who was awarded the People’s Choice Award in the Archibald Prize this week, was “chuffed” with the award, but not once mentioned the recognition for himself as an artist, instead he was chuffed about the recognition the award will bring to his portrait subject, Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward, to the issue of domestic violence in indigenous communities, deaths in custody, education, the recognition it brings to other artists in Murrurundi and to the community of Murrurundi which has embraced him.
Last year David Darcy had a portrait in the Archibald of fellow Murrurundi artist Charlotte Drake Brockman, who herself had a portrait in the exhibition and Michael Reid who runs an art gallery in Murrurundi was the subject of a portrait by Robert Malherbe.
“People say what’s going on in Murrurundi and I say, ‘well it’s a lovely little town and a good environment and I’m in a good headspace so it all works in our favour’,” said Mr Darcy.
“I’ve only been in Murrurundi for three years now and I’ve felt incredibly well received in the Upper Hunter and I’ve had some acclaim and that helps bring a little bit of light on the area and I’m really chuffed to be able to do that and hopefully I’ll be able to do it more,” he said.
This year, Murrurundi again provided the inspiration for David’s portrait when Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward came into his studio hoping he could help with some paint supplies.
“I met her by chance, she had come from Warakurna, which is about 300 kilometres west of Uluru, she came to Sydney to get some health checkups and came to Murrurundi to stay with a very good friend of hers and she stayed for a couple of weeks and during that time she wanted to paint and so her friend suggested she go down and have some supplies for her,” said David Darcy.
“She walked into the studio one day and asked if I had any paint supplies for her and we got chatting and over the course of two or three weeks I got to know her and I realised she was an amazing woman and needed to be painted,” he said.
“It’s one of those things where you get a gut feeling and once I had unearthed some of her background I realised then that she was director on the board of the NPY Women’s Council, a domestic violence advocate against indigenous women and a spokesperson for deaths in custody of indigenous people, she’s a public liaison officer for the education department,
She just does all this incredible work and with all of her traditional knowledge and her place in her own culture it was just a no brainer, once I started to unearth who she was I thought she was just the perfect person for the Archibald, because the Archibald gives people a platform and that’s what I really wanted for her
I wanted to see her get some recognition for the amazing work she has done and that is obviously what has connected with the public as well
News of the Award
Everyone who visits the Archibald Prize is able to vote on their favourite portrait, on a computer in the cafe of the gallery.
“I believe they had over 20,000 votes this year which is an astonishing amount of people to go through, because a lot of people don’t even know the voting system is there,” said David.
“I took my mother down half way through the exhibition and we walked around the corner to the cafe and I showed her where you can vote for people’s choice and while we were standing there all four computers had Daisey’s picture on it and I felt pretty chuffed at that point and thought maybe we will win the people’s choice,” he said.
“I got the call on Monday and it was very much a jump in your car and get to Sydney because it is going to be announced on Wednesday and it was quite a difficult exercise because they asked for Daisey to come down,” he said.
“Daisey being out in Warakuna and so remote, so I was very fortunate to get hold of her on Monday night and she had spent three days driving across the desert towards Perth and she’d just come into Perth on Monday night and I was able to give her the option and say ‘do you want to jump on a plane tomorrow and fly to Sydney because we’re about to announce that we’ve one the people’s choice?'” he said.
Picking Up the Brushes
David moved to Murrurundi in 2016, after an extensive and successful career as a photographer and decided it was time to pick up the paint brushes, a transition David said was natural and timely. See related story: A Fresh Start with Painting.
“For me it was a transition that was always going to happen I always wanted to have a go at painting and it was the right time, right place all of those kinds of things fell inline for me and 20 odd years as a portrait artist as a photographer you need to learn to get the most out of a subject and usually that means getting their trust and building a repour and I think that’s what it was with Daisey as well,” said David.
“I work from a photograph so I shoot a lot to work from; I think the difference between painting and photography is that there is an emphasis on getting something more from within a painting that the photo can’t capture and there’s all sorts of feeling you have in a studio when you’re painting you have the days when you feel good and days when you feel bad,” he said.
“Sometimes I think those feelings come out and hopefully it’s over the course of seven weeks that you’ve had some really good days and it’s those moments that you want the painting to produce those little moments that will connect with the public,” he said.
David was inspired to move to Murrurundi when he drove through town from Tamworth to Newcastle and spotted a shop front for sale and said he has never looked back.
He was inspired to begin painting, was inspired by local artist Charlotte Drake Brockman for his first portrait in the Archibald, then Daisey walking through his doors for his second and hopes Murrurundi will deliver again.
“The next plan is whoever I pick for the next Archibald and hopefully it is someone locally that inspires me to do that,” he said.
“Ever since I moved out to Murrurundi, it’s just kept kicking goals,” laughed David.