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Victorian artist Pat Hudson has won the Bald Archy Prize – a parody of the Archibald Prize – with an irreverent portrait of Cardinal George Pell titled Nothing to Say. The Australian Cardinal, currently Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy at the Vatican, is pictured with a red devil’s tail looped over his arm and a face that bears a striking resemblance to certain appendage of the male anatomy.
"I prefer to leave that to the viewers of the painting to decide what they see in it," said Hudson in a report by the ABC, "It's interesting at the exhibition here to be with people who have seen it and to hear what they're saying, and everybody here is seeing something different, or noticing something different about it, or taking a different meaning from it."
The portrait was inspired by the controversy surrounding Pell’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse within the Catholic Church.
"Through all the tragedy and adversity of what actually went on, it seemed there was a sense of absurdity to it with the church's response, so that's what I was trying to capture in the picture," Hudson said.
This is not the first time Pell has attracted this kind of attention from artists, with comedian and award-winning singer-songwriter Tim Minchin writing a scathing viral song Come Home (Cardinal Pell) in reaction to the Cardinal’s appearing at the Royal Commission via video link instead of attending in person.
Nor is this the first time Pell has been immortalised in a Bald Archy Prize winning portrait – he appeared as the subject of Tony Sowersby’s 2005 portrait with a ventriloquist puppet of Tony Abbott on his knee.
In 2016, other subjects include Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and AFL star Adam Goodes.
While the art competition is very much tongue-in-cheek, it has become an eagerly awaited event on the Australian art calendar since its founding in 1994. Hudson described winning the competition as "a great honour and a big surprise."
The Bald Archy Prize is currently touring Australia.