John McRae - Portraits of Matthew Mitcham
Best known for his hard-hitting portraiture, McRae presents “Portraits of Matthew Mitcham”, at the North Sydney Olympic Pool, as part of the Vivid Sydney Festival from 23 May - 9 June, 2014
At the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, young Australian diver Matt Mitcham won the gold medal in the 10-metre platform event, with the highest scoring single dive in Olympic history. Now in the lead-up to Mitcham’s participation in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, in July/August this year, John presents his larger-than-life images of Australia’s greatest Olympic diver and sportsman of the year.
His ongoing series of larger-than-life images of Mitcham trace the development of an athlete from an uncertain youngster to a media-savvy man of confidence, an icon of inner strength. In a unique series of six revealing portraits of Mitcham taken by McRae from 2008 to 2013 (MMVIII-MMXIII), the diver faces the camera in the same neutral pose, captured in identikit head-shots. We see him gradually change from a shy teenager into a high-profile role model of international fame, an athlete with his face splashed on the cover of American magazines.
“Essentially, I am using the camera as a tool for tracking and mapping a personality,” says McRae.
McRae’s portraits regularly feature in the finalist line-up for Australia’s most notable art prizes, including The Olive Cotton Award at the Tweed River Art Gallery, The National Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra, The Moran Portrait Prize, The Head On Portrait Prize, The Blake Prize and the The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Award. In 2012 McRae’s large triptych, Margaret Olley in her Paddington Studio (the last official portrait of Olley before her death in July, 2011 at the age of 88) was voted the winner of the people’s choice award at the National Portrait Prize, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. In 2013 McRae was the winner of the Critics’ Choice Award in the popular “Shoot the Chef” competition sponsored by Fairfax Media, Good Food Month, with his portrait of “Ali and Osso Buco”. His work has been seen in solo and group exhibitions in Italy, France, Germany, Malta, the US and throughout Australia.
McRae’s association with ACAF has spanned more than 3 years. He was part of an exhibition, 5 Photo-based Artists at the ACAF project space, Ausin Tung, Melbourne, curated by Jonathan Turner in 2012. More recently, John was part of the inaugural exhibition at ACAF’s newest space in Sydney, ACAF Studio & Art Terminal 1, where ACAF exhibited 10 emerging Chinese multimedia artists in Degeneration, curated by the Shanghai based Italian art critic Mariagrazia Costantino, while McRae showed, Lip - Service, also curated by the Rome based art critic and curator, Jonathan Turner. Later this year, McRae will take up an ACAF residency in the city of Shanghai, as part of the “Arts Can Do” program initiated by ACAF to help underprivileged children reach their full potential by developing life skills and confidence through involvement in art.