Artist shares stories behind portraits

Woodridge-based artist Jun Chen is one of a select group of Queensland artists whose work has regularly been accepted into the prestigious annual Archibald Prize Exhibition with nine of his portraits displayed over a period of 15 years. Those works and others are currently part of the ‘Archibald Portraits’ exhibition at Logan Art Gallery and there will be a rare opportunity to view the works guided by the artist himself on 17 January and again on 20 January (and meet some of his subjects) before the exhibition closes.

Jun’s past Archibald entries include the portrait of recently retired artistic director of Queensland Ballet Li Cunxin, whose memoir Mao’s Last Dancer was also made into a film. The portrait was commissioned by and is part of the collection at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. His painting of the late Australian art dealer Ray Hughes was runner-up for the prize in 2017.

Along with his Archibald creations, this exhibition also features portraits which were selected for the Salon des Refusés, which is an ‘alternative’ collection of portraits chosen from works entered but rejected for display by the Archibald panel and exhibited instead each year by a Sydney gallery.

Jun is donating one of his works Portrait of the artist Ian Smith 2021 (a local artist) to the Logan Art Collection through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Jun was born in China and migrated to Australia in 1990, one of many who left following the Tiananmen Square protests, eventually landing in Brisbane and working in a sushi bar while he continued his craft and his art studies at Queensland University of Technology. His technique has also evolved in his new home and his portraits are very textural, created with a palette knife.

“I like colour very strong, and do my painting in my own way. I love black and grey. People like to see the feelings, like the artist. This is very important,” he said.

Chair of council’s City Lifestyle Committee Tony Hall said the exhibition is a chance to see Jun’s complete Archibald catalogue. “Visitors will be able to see for themselves the talent which has regularly caught the eye of the Archibald Prize judges,” he said.

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