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Portrait of Julian Assange named as Archibald Finalist

May 30, 2024 IN WIP
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We are very excited to share with you that Australian contemporary artist, Shaun Gladwell has been named as a Finalist in the Archibald Prize for his portrait of Julian Assange!

Gladwell describes his portrait, titled ‘A spangled symbolist portrait of Julian Assange floating in reflection’ as a protest against the political persecution, psychological torture and illegal incarceration of Julian.

Meeting the Archibald’s requirement of at least one ‘live sitting’ with the subject was a challenge for the artist as Julian remains in Belmarsh maximum-security prison, in London.

“HMP Belmarsh didn’t allow me to bring anything except £25 for the canteen. When I was refused a pencil and paper, Julian suggested I sketch him with chocolate on a spare banknote, which I did” (see the sketch translated from chocolate to wax pencil below).

Sketch of Julian Assange’s face in blue and black, drawn on a 5 pound note stuck on a white piece of paper.

Shaun Gladwell
Julian Assange preparatory sketch
Courtesy of the Artist & PALAS, Sydney.

“Despite the oppressive surroundings, it was wonderful to see Julian smile. He champions freedom, truth and peace. Let us now champion the freedom of this incredible human being,” said Gladwell.

We deeply appreciate Gladwell’s portrayal of Julian’s story in the Archibald Prize.

“It means a lot to us that Shaun [Gladwell] has been able to draw attention to Julian’s ongoing plight through art, which we are hoping will connect strongly with people’s sense of humanity, equity and hope,” said Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s brother.

Get down to the Art Gallery of New South Wales!

If you’re located in NSW, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see Gladwell’s portrait and vote for it in the People’s Choice award.

For any queries, please contact the gallery via their website.

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International