When artist, comedian and author Anh Do won last year’s Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award, there was no way of knowing he’d be the subject of the winning Bald Archy entrant for 2018.

Anh DoAnh Can Do by James Brennan. Photo supplied 

Now in its 25th year, the Bald Archy boasts an irreverent sensibility and satirical edge – past subjects have included politicians Barnaby Joyce, Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott. Do has received an altogether more celebratory treatment however, with four-time winning artist James Brennan an admirer of his. Titled Anh Can Do, Brennan’s painting draws on a wealth of references, most significantly Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self-Portrait. He will receive a $10,000 prize purse for his efforts.

“Anh Do is an inspiration for me, I admire him for what he has accomplished in his life from his very humble beginnings as a child refugee to a successful author, actor, comedian and artist,” said Brennan. “I love his art, he has his own TV show ‘Anh’s Brush with Fame’ and he has been a finalist for the Archibald Prize. He also has that incredible big smile and happy-go-lucky personality that I wanted to capture on canvas.”

“While Anh Do is famous for a lot of things, in recent times he’s been really making it big on the art scene, so I wanted to paint him doing a painting. I thought a good way to portray that would be in the manner that the famous American artist Norman Rockwell did with his ‘Triple Self-Portrait’ where I could capture the artist Anh’s three selves: the painter, the observer, and the public person. However, in my version of the public person I’ve turned up the volume of his portrait considerably, with the caricature showing him as larger than life – which he is – with that big beaming smile making everyone happy.”

“It’s also a parody of Rockwell’s portrait with our famous Australian in place of Rockwell himself,” said Brennan. “I’ve replaced Rockwell’s ornate eagle on the mirror with our Australian coat of arms, Rockwell’s sketches pinned to the top left hand corner of the canvas has been replaced by the cartoons from Anh’s ‘Weirdo’ book series, the helmet on top of the easel has been replaced by an Australian cork hat and the photos on the top right hand corner of Anh’s canvas include his own favourite artists Van Gogh, Goya, Rembrandt as well as the portrait he had in last year’s Archibald Prize.”

“I was hoping with this painting, in my own distinctive style, to pay tribute not only to Anh Do but Norman Rockwell as well. I was really trying to stretch Anh Do’s features, take it as far as I could without losing his recognisability.”

For those on the lookout for next year’s potential Bald Archy subjects, the Archibald Prize winners will be on display from May 12 at the Art Gallery of NSW.


The Exhibition of Bald Archy Prize finalists will be held at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour March 20  to April  22 before touring.

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