Portrait of Steve Kilbey
Archibald Prize Entry
Pastel on Paper, 2016
“I am the cripple dance man with my luggage in utopia
Hey I am waltzing through your open gates where a fountain has cooled my burning ardour
Where my tumescent ambition has ripened into sweet actions
And the eyes may gaze for a moment upon yonder hills…”
“I painted Steve as my entry for the 2016 Archibald Prize.
Steve Kilbey is the lead singer-songwriter and bass guitarist for The Church, an Australian rock band whose hits include “Under the Milky Way” and “Almost With You”.
I initially encountered Steve Kilbey through his music. Who can forget the beautiful songs from The Church in the 80’s and 90’s? “Under The Milky Way” arguably became a cult anthem for Australia. I first saw Kilbey perform in a solo gig in the 1990’s. Predictably the crowd were wanting to hear ’Under the Milky Way”. Steve instead got a member of the audience to sing it. At the time I went away annoyed thinking this was an arrogant gesture. After getting to know more about him I now appreciate his challenging nature. He doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed by his past. I admire Steve’s honesty as he seems undisturbed about common conceptions in society and willing to vocally express his queries despite the confronting nature of the subjects.
Moving on 25 years and Steve is still producing beautiful music. I am attracted to him as an artist who is relentlessly creating despite the ups and downs that his life has delivered.
I met him on one of the down times. He had just learnt that someone in the business had been dishonest causing him considerable financial stress. Although his mind was clearly somewhere else he was still gracious enough to meet and allow me time for a sitting. In this portrait I wanted to express the anxiety in Steve that I saw that day and reflect upon the life of a creative soul moving forward despite life’s many obstacles.
Apart from his music Kilbey is a prolific visual artist who paints mainly in pastels. I chose to use this medium in his portrait firstly because he had an obvious affinity with it but also because it had a mystical, ethereal quality that I felt was particularly appropriate for Steve. In this painting I also wanted to touch on his ability as a lyricist by including words from one of his latest blogs/poems on the frame.”