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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Writing lives, revealing lives – Portraiture and personhood

20 years of portraits

Daily from Saturday 30 June 2018 until Sunday 1 July 2018
Paul Capsis, 2004 Esther Erlich
Paul Capsis, 2004 Esther Erlich. © Esther Erlich

The National Portrait Gallery and ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory present a forum on biography and creativity. We invite you to participate in discussions and activities bringing to life portrayals of personhood in writing and portraiture.

The forum aims to promote thinking about biographical expression. This reflects the NPG’s role as the home of portraiture, and the ANU School of Art and Design’s spirit of inspiring research in visual arts, art history & theory and curatorship. The forum will appeal to audiences passionate about biography and visual arts.

Find out more about the contributors to the forum - Paul Capsis, Brenda L Croft, Kim Mahood, Dr Lucy Neave, Sebastian Smee, Dr Nicola Dickson, Bern Emmerichs, Linde Ivimey, Valerie Kirk, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Carol McGregor, and Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling).

The inaugural Andrew Sayers Memorial Lecture launches the forum on Friday 29 June at 6:00pm (ticketed separately).

Day 1 Saturday 30 June

10:00am Arrival/morning tea

10:15 — 10:30am
Welcome to Country: Jude Barlow
Welcome/Introduction to forum: Angus Trumble and Dr Christopher Chapman

10:30am — 12:30pm
So Fine: Contemporary women artists make Australian history
Contributing artists Linde Ivimey, Bern Emmerichs, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Dr Nicola Dickson, Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling), Valerie Kirk and Carol McGregor join So Fine curators Dr Sarah Engledow and Christine Clark in a panel discussion exploring the exhibited works and reflections on Australian history. 

12:30— 2:00pm Lunch break (not provided) and opportunity to view the exhibition So Fine: Contemporary women artists make Australian history

2:00 — 2:45pm
Speaking likeness
Renowned actor Paul Capsis discusses the powerful way in which performance brings together the spoken word and visual cues to tell a biographically based narrative.

2:45 – 3:30pm
Retrac(k)ing country and (s)kin: Walking the Wave Hill Walk Off Track (and other sites of cultural contestation)
Brenda L Croft discusses her practice-led doctoral research, which includes new experimental work framed around the critical, Indigenous autoethnographic performative act of retracing the ‘Gurindji Walk-Off’ track and other sites associated with her patrilineal family/community. This research is presented from a Gurindji-specific perspective, while also considering diverse experiences of other Gurindji members. Her work addresses the maintenance of cultural connections while also challenging the context of a single geographical location denoting ‘home’.

3:30pm Close of day

Day 2 Sunday 1 July

10:00am Arrival

10:15 — 11:15am
Art and Rivalry: speculating about the psychodynamics of creative innovation
Sebastian Smee discusses rivalry as an engine of innovation, and the challenge of writing about relationships between great artists, with special reference to Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, and Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.

11:15 – 11:45am Morning tea

11:45am – 12:45pm
Creative portraits, creative writing
Experiment with written responses to portraits of creative practitioners on display at the National Portrait Gallery in an informal workshop led by local writers Kim Mahood, and Lucy Neave.

12:45pm Close

Related people

Paul Capsis

Brenda L. Croft

Related information

Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks
Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks
Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks
Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks

Collection: Icons

Volume One

Previous exhibition, 2018

When a portrait communicates determination and individuality as boldly as these do, it has the potential to become an iconic image. For the Gallery’s 20th birthday this display brings together a group contemporary photographic portraits of inspiring women and men.

Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole

Express Yourself

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition celebrates Australians whose unique life experiences symbolise social and cultural forces. Uncompromising individuality defines them. The portraits are drawn from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of contemporary photography and drawing.

Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey

So Fine

Contemporary women artists make Australian history

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition features new works from ten women artists reinterpreting and reimagining elements of Australian history, enriching the contemporary narrative around Australia’s history and biography, reflecting the tradition of storytelling in our country.

Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins

Michael Riley's portraits

Portrait story

Linda Burney, Brenda Croft and Darrell Sibosado share memories of Michael Riley and his photographic practice.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.