Good News
October 4, 2017

Anh Do wins Archibald People’s Choice prize with portrait of Jack Charles

When celebrated comedian, author and painter Anh Do was cleaning out his garage a few years ago, he discovered he had collected 2000 books on art.

“Whenever I’d go into a St Vinnie’s or wherever, I’d go to the books and see if I could pick up an old van Gogh book for a buck or two,” he said.

“I had 2000 art books but I only had maybe 50 comedy books. And I thought, you know what, there’s a little passion here that I’m kind of ignoring.”

Four years after heading to his local TAFE to study painting, Do not only has a successful art program on ABC TV, Anh’s Brush With Fame, but has now won the $3500 People’s Choice Award at the Archibald Prize

His portrait of Jack Charles, once described as an “esteemed actor, former heroin addict and jailbird, member of the stolen generation, gay man and latter-day indigenous activist”, was the popular pick for more than 16,000 voters at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Do painted Charles for his TV show then used that portrait as a study for his prize-winning work, which took two days to complete.

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“I took the kids to school, did the top bit, picked the kids up,” he said. “Next day I woke up, took the kids to school, did the bottom, picked the kids up.”

Do has previously been an Archibald finalist with a portrait of his father, Tam Do, in 2014.

For his prize-winning portrait, he included a hologram of a unicorn and its mother in Charles’ beard to reflect his subject’s search for a mother’s love as a member of the stolen generation.

The painting also includes insects to reflect a story that Charles told him about having ants and cockroaches crawling on him when he woke up on the streets after spilling drinks he had found – half-drunk Fanta or cappuccino – on himself.

“I love all my guests but it was a connection with Jack,” Do said. “Jack’s extraordinary. All the ups and downs in his life.

“We’ve all been through a lot but Jack is another level. And somehow it shows in his face.”

On Thursday, Do is heading to Europe to study painting for three months.

“Italy, France, Spain,” he said. “To look at Caravaggio​ and Picasso and van Gogh – all the greats.”

Gallery director Michael Brand called the winning portrait “a collaboration between two of Australia’s most talented creators”.

Charles said in a statement from Melbourne, where he was speaking at a conference, that he was extremely chuffed to be one of Do’s mates.

“It was a hoot sitting for this legend in his sexy little Sydney studio,” he said. “I count him as one of the best extractors of information, with his engaging smile, wit, genuine interest and listening to the dribs and drabs of my story, my reason for living.”

Do would not comment on the controversy at the Archibald Prize this year – veteran artist John Olsen describing the winner, Mitch Cairns’ colourful portrait of artist and partner Agatha Gothe-Snape, as “the worst decision I’ve ever seen.”

“I haven’t seen it,” he said.

The Packing Room award went to Peter Smeeth’s​ portrait of Todayshow host Lisa Wilkinson.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prize finalists are on show at the gallery until October 22 before a regional tour.

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