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Raelene Sharp,  A strength of character, oil on canvas, 132 x 132cm. ©Raelene Sharp Winner of the Archibald Packing Room Prize 2012 and Archibald Finalist 2012

Raelene Sharp and John Wood, both demonstrate a strength of character.  John Wood is Melbourne acting royalty. His career has spanned the small screen and stage. He has played characters as diverse as Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Sr. Sgt. Tom Croydon in the long running Australian television series Blue Heelers. In 2006 he won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television after being nominated each year for the previous 10 years.  On accepting the award, John famously said,  “Too much, too soon.”

With this portrait, Raelene Sharp has captured the depth of character of a much loved Australian actor, in the most heartwarming way…no wonder the Archibald Packers chose this painting. The Packer’s choice is as much a tribute to John Wood as it is a tribute to Raelene Sharp for her ability to ‘capture’ him in paint on canvas.

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Raelene Sharp© A Woman’s Lot (self-portrait), 2005 oil on canvas, 152 x122cm.

Talking to Raelene Sharp at her home and studio in Yarra Glen, I discovered not only a very accomplished portrait painter but also a mother, a wife and a daughter, determined to  follow her creative path among the challenges of family commitments. (No mean feat for any artist.) The moment I saw her self portrait, A Woman’s Lot, I recognized her acute self awareness and her ability to capture her own essence.  This painting was the winner of her first significant portrait prize-  the $30,000 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize in 2006.  In it, she sits in the spotlight with the demands of family directed toward her. She is protective but resolute, with eyes displaying the compassion of the open hearted humanitarian so evident during our short time together. You can see and feel her ‘strengh of character’ in this work.

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She is presently working on a series of paintings, with one of her beloved daughters the subject. In the first of these works, Raelene’s ability to observe the complexities of the human condition is once more immediately evident.  The work almost brought me to tears. 

Raelene is a member of a group of six painters known as  Fusion6.  She is also a participant in the Yarra Valley Open Studios.  I first encountered her work after a workshop she conducted at Acme et al last year. 

There’s a little frisson bubbling up in the Yarra Valley with the 2012 Archibald Prize on it’s way to TarraWarra Museum of Art in early June.  You will have the pleasure of seeing Raelene’s work alongside the other shortlisted works then. You can make a booking online at TWMA’s website.