The eminent face: Portraiture of Arts Project Australia 

Portraiture can’t be neatly defined. Capturing the face, the human body’s centric feature, extends back millennia; the oldest known representation of a human face heralds from the ice age (and lives on in the Burrup Peninsula rock library in Western Australia). Yet, portraiture’s breadth doesn’t discount us from considering artists’ capacity to continuously interpret and depict human emotion and experience within this medium.

Traversing history, it is evident that the portrait remains an eminent fixture of artistic practice. At Arts Project Australia, artists continue to ingeniously portray the human face and its infinite multitudes. By connecting with work made in the studio, three of Arts Project’s team explore both the intimate nuances and expansive complexity of portraiture.

Amanda HallMandy Hall / Vice President

The eyes have it. Throughout time, the ability of a portrait to provide not only a window to the soul but to be able to reflect back to the viewer a snapshot of the human condition is unparalleled. Amani Tia and Adrian Lazzaro have both managed to encapsulate and at the same time, bookend this extraordinary period of COVID-19 isolation. Amani’s portrait, with its strict monochrome and inward intensity of expression, senses our unease as we slid into lockdown unknown. This new existence promised to be muted and subdued. His work senses our foreboding and heightens our disquiet.

Six weeks on and I’m drawn to Adrian Lazzaro. Fear, grief and resignation are replaced by a flattened curve and a new set of anxieties. The wildly discordant colour of this portrait is reflective of growing agitation. This guy looks ready to burst his real or imaginary shackles of restraint. His deeply furrowed brow evokes an impatience to resume our regular lives and reconnect with one another again.


 These works aptly chart the great psychological adventure of isolation.

Rob McHaffieRob McHaffie / Staff Artist 

Elvis’s enduring stardom is something modern pop singers could only dream of in our current consumer culture that disposes of a singer after only a few hit singles. One Melbournite keeping Elvis’s fame alive and well in our collective conscious is Dionne Canzano, with her life long devotion to the beauty and music of the king.

Elvis here is drawn with a massive head reflecting the size of his ego and holy pop status. His neck is beautifully decorated in sparkly jewels and signature huge shirt collar framing his head. He towers above the angelic Lisa Marie’s small stature leaving her chuffed to be in his presence. Dionne slowly builds these scenes adding layers of dry pastel, smudged with her fingers and then overlays shapes with line and coloured details. The effect is that Dionne can reveal the complexity of human themes such as love and devotion.

I completely relate to Brendan.

The absurdity of humanising animals with familiar names and producing their portraits questions how we relate to species other our own and our very need to produce and keep portraits. This awkward relationship is beautifully captured in Michael Licenblat‘s energetic depiction of ‘Brendan the Baboon. It the first of a series of animal studies including ‘Penny the penguin’, Leon the Lemur’ and ‘Pricilla the Poodle’. With all of his frenetic energy and skill for comic character drawing, Michael captures the baboons stunned expression and attempted smile as he freezes in time for his portrait.

Jo SaltJo Salt / Gallery Administrator 

As we are all painfully aware, COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the relationships that form in many parts of our lives. At Arts Project Australia, the studio and gallery have closed, and while the remote delivery program is wonderful, the distance felt between friends and colleagues remains. 

While reflecting on Will Murray’s exhibition Portraits of Will, held in the gallery before the closure, and the current virtual exhibition by Bronwyn Hack, I found myself drawn to the wonderful way in which the two artists tenderly portray their APA contemporaries. 

The pieces capture a moment in time in an environment for which access has been temporarily suspended and serve as a reminder to value and appreciate meaningful connections and moments as they play out before us. They overwhelmingly demonstrate the extraordinary bond that exists between all involved at Arts Project Australia and serve as a source of stories, thoughts, feelings and moments which coalesce and collectively define the organisation. 

Love from the Studio is a series of interviews and articles bringing you behind the scenes of Arts Project Australia. 

Edited by Tahney Fosdike, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Arts Project Australia.