Vincent Fantauzzo was born in 1977 in England, before moving to Australia where he grew up and currently lives and works. Due to dyslexia, the artist struggled with rudimentary reading and writing in his early years but displayed a fondness and aptitude for painting. With the assistance of a disability liaison he went on to graduate with a Masters degree in Fine Art from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Perhaps it was the artist’s struggle with ‘traditional’ learning that stimulated a keen sensitivity to the subtleties of personality, composition and of the visual translating of reality. He has been the recipient of many accolades in his career and his 2012 Archibald finalist painting, Kimbra (The Build Up), certainly conveys an acute human element and a sense of the inner essence of the sitter along with a grander sense of narrative.
Internationally acclaimed New Zealand born singer, Kimbra, sits on the edge of a bed in a tableau setting of genteel ambience of The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne. She meets the viewer’s eye with an unselfconscious yet vulnerable gaze, illustrating a harmony of the public and the private persona - that exists in each of us – but with which carries a greater contrast within the celebrity. Fantauzzo draws upon techniques used in mediums such as cinema and photography to heighten realism in this work, creating a theatrical effect. The strong tonal contrast is reminiscent of 1940s film noir which kindles a sense of curiosity in the spectator, allowing our imagination to tell a story.
Fantauzzo has worked with the chanteuse on several collaborations but this example is certainly the most significant. Igniting what would become a marriage of performance, art, cinema, music and theatre – the painting is prominently featured in a music video, Kimbra spoke warmheartedly of the project:
We actually did a full video shoot that accompanies the painting. It’s a collaboration - me and Vincent Fantauzzo had the idea to incorporate art and music so that people would see a portrait and then actually go inside the portrait and experience it as a moving image.1
The two creatives met in 2012 while involved in a project to raise awareness and funds for Lucid, a charity for those affected by drug and alcohol related issues. Kimbra’s commitment made a strong impression on Fantauzzo:
I thought it was special that a young person like her did so much to help others, I was blown away by her talent and I decided to paint her for the Archibald. I had the idea of making a video to go with the painting so I asked her to give me a song that she felt shows an intimate side of her. She gave me the song ‘The Build Up’, which she wrote when she was 16. I listened to it a lot, talked to her about it and painted this portrait based on the song. We then made a video clip.2
Fantauzzo has a deep and personal understanding of society’s fascination with celebrities. The personalities he paints are often well-known to us, we have seen their images on televisions and in magazines, online and on our iPhones - however the artist’s astute perception of character enables us to view his sitters in a light otherwise dominated by the severe glare of public gaze. Through his photorealist paintings, he portrays the vulnerability, nobility and fragility that are otherwise sequestered from the public realm. The present work is not only a truthful and alluring portrait of Kimbra, it is also a poignant painting that is imbued with a sense of history and delicate cultural nuances.
Kimbra (The Build Up), was featured in the 2012 Archibald Prize touring exhibition which was shown at the major regional art galleries in New South Wales and Victoria.
1. Kimbra quoted on Pedestrian, 8 January 2013, accessed on 3 July 2017, www.pedestrian.tv/news/music/vincent-fantauzzo-archibald-portrait-of-ki…
2. The artist quoted on the Art Gallery of New South Wales Website, accessed on 3 July 2017, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/archibald/2012/29228/
Tessa Adele Dorman BFA, MA (Art History and Theory)