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ON DISPLAY

Wally (Wouter) De Backer
, 2013 (printed 2014)

by Julian Kingma

inkjet print (sheet: 107.0 cm x 73.0 cm, image: 102.0 cm x 68.0 cm)

Wally (Wouter) De Backer (b. 1980), singer-songwriter and musician, also known as ‘Gotye’, was two years old when his Flemish parents came from Belgium to settle in Montmorency, Victoria. De Backer learned piano and drums from an early age and formed a band called Downstares in high school. Later, studying arts at the University of Melbourne, he began experimenting with electronic music and sampling. De Backer’s first self-produced and self-promoted four-track EP, released in 2001 when he was 21, gained radio airplay and became part of his first album Boardface in 2003. Living in Melbourne, working at a local library and playing drums with band The Basics from 2004, De Backer self-produced a second album, Like Drawing Blood, which was voted Triple J listeners’ Best Album of 2006. The following year he won the ARIA for best male artist, the first of five ARIAs he has received to date. His breakthrough single of 2011, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, reached number 1 in 18 countries including the UK and US, and was the top-selling song on iTunes in 46 countries. In 2013, he won Grammy Awards for record of the year, best pop duo/group performance and, for his third album Making Mirrors, best alternative music album. In February 2013, the National Film and Sound Archive launched Fractured Heart, an interactive sound and light sculpture designed and built in collaboration with De Backer. Now based in New York, he has recently been performing on a little known instrument, the ondioline, releasing the album Jean Jacques Perry et Son Ondioline (2016) and performing A Tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey in Sydney, Melbourne, Brooklyn and elsewhere.

Kingma photographed De Backer on his parents’ farm on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, where De Backer recorded his 2010 single ‘Eyes Wide Open’ in a studio converted from a shed his father built. Kingma first met De Backer on a magazine shoot for a story about his success in the US, and asked if they could meet again for a quieter shoot with no magazine brief. Kingma recalls ‘I went there and I wanted something that was not music or rock n’ roll. He’s not that guy anyway. He’s just a very creative quite guy and that prompted me to make a quiet contemplative portrait, which is more about the guy, not the stage persona’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2014
Accession number: 2014.38