Champion Jamie Preisz wins the 2018 Packing Room Prize ‘title fight’

In his inaugural year as judge of the Archibald Packing Room Prize, head packer Brett Cuthbertson and his packing room team have awarded this year’s prize to Sydney artist and first-time finalist, Jamie Preisz, for his portrait of the singer/songwriter Jimmy Barnes AO, titled Jimmy (title fight).

Archibald Prize 2018 Packing Room Prize winning portrait: Jamie Preisz, Jimmy (title fight). Photograph: AGNSW, Jenni Carter. © the artist

Cuthbertson was immediately drawn to the work: ‘Look, to be honest, when the work arrived, I’d just been asked by a journalist who I’d like to see painted this year. Fair dinkum, I said Barnesy would be great. I turned around after the interview, and there was a young artist turning his work around so we could see it,’ said the head packer; ‘I couldn’t believe it. It was of Barnsey. The portrait stuck in my head for the week we were receiving entries. By the final day of submissions, it was still the only contender for me.’

Preisz approached ‘Barnesy’ after seeing an interview in which the musician spoke about his struggles with mental health issues. The artist hopes the painting will ‘spark some conversation’ and bring further awareness to these issues.

Jimmy (title fight) shows the rock star wrapping his hands with boxing tape. In the background, red drapery references behind the curtain, or backstage, a familiar place for the Cold Chisel frontman. Preisz also cites Caravaggio’s Judith beheading Holofernes (c.1598-9), a painting often considered to represent triumph over tyranny.

Barnes, who is currently performing a national stage show based on his chart-topping second memoir, Working Class Man, said he enjoyed the sitting, ‘I was really pleased with the concept of painting me with my hands strapped like a boxer – I remember my father strapping his hands like this for a fight so it was something that appealed to me.’

‘I’ve fought a lot of battles myself in life and I think this painting really captures that. I’m really happy with the outcome,’ Barnes added.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize finalists will be on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 12 May to 9 September 2018.