Last year, Melbourne-based artist Yvette Coppersmith took out Australia’s most prestigious portrait painting award, The Archibald Prize. From 793 entries, her ‘Self portrait after George Lambert’ saw her take home the $100,000 accolade. In her acceptance speech, the Melbourne-based creative thanked other artists and the community for their support, identifying that ‘the most important things in the art world are the conversations you have with other artists’.
As the 10th female prize winner (in the 97 years that the award has run) Yvette recognises she is now in a privileged position. She praises The Countess Report, a brilliant research project counting gender representation during 2014 in the Australian visual arts sector, which identifies that though the pool of Australian artists comprises a lot more women than men, there are many more men showing in our galleries and museums. The Report advocates for ongoing research and education on the topic, and compels ‘stakeholders in the Australian visual art sector [to] promote and advocate for gender equality in their management activities, operations, and programming’.
Throughout her career, Yvette has been fortunate to paint some brilliant, pioneering women: the late Justice Rosemary Balmford, who was the first female judge appointed to the Supreme Court of Victoria; Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, who was President of the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2012 to 2017; and Emeritus Professor Anne Green, who was the first woman PhD candidate and first head of the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney (this artwork will be unveiled this year).
After what feels like an ‘overshare’ of herself and her work in the wake of the Archibald win, Yvette is keen to become more fully engaged in her practice and find time for herself in 2019. She will take up a residency through Byron School of Art later in the year, as well as run a series of drawing sessions at NGV, and partake in the not-to-be-missed group show, Fem-Affinity, at Arts Projects Australia in June.
‘Any artist in Australia aspires to have the means to make work and pay the bills, simultaneously,’ she concludes. ‘All I can advise is that it takes persistence, resilience, and development of other areas to support one’s practice for the lean times’.