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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jennifer D'Arcy

Jennifer D'Arcy puts finishing touches or her 2013 Archibald Prize entry.
A few days ago, as I was preparing a piece on Australia's Archibald Prize, I came upon a big "splash" apparently bought and paid for by a major nail polish manufacturer touting a portrait of the Australian comedian, Julia Morris. The painting was done entirely using nail polish. The Website headlined its entry into the 2013 Archibald Prize competition earlier this year. At first glance, the impression created was that it at won the prize. While it appeared to be a fairly good portrait by a reasonably adept painter, the fact is, it wasn't even accepted into the competition, much less winning it. In fact, it wasn't even a finalist. And though the Website had numerous images of the artist with her painting, her name, Jennifer D'Arcy, was barely mentioned while Julia Morris' name was so prominently blazoned across the site I had to check closely to make sure it wasn't a self-portrait.
Not just red anymore, nail lacquer is available today
 in over 300 different shades (for a price).
Several months ago I wrote discussing Nail Art and the broad area of fingertip creativity ushered in with its recent (the past ten years) popularity. Of course, the key element, apart from various artists and designers, is nail polish (sometimes called nail lacquer, which is more accurate). It never occurred to me that someone would find such a difficult to manage medium appropriate for such a difficult to manage type of art. First of all, unless you happen to be wearing it, the damned stuff dries WAY to fast to suit the working habits of most portrait painters accustomed to working in oils, which sometimes seem to take an eternity to dry. Likewise the tiny little nail polish brushes would not be any traditional portrait painter's first choice, not to mention the little bottles, which don't come cheap. The Julia Morris portrait consumed 1,071 bottles of nail polish (that's 16 liters of the stuff) at between six and twelve dollars per bottle, depending upon the color. At an average price of $9.00 per bottle, that's nearly $10,000 in nail polish! That makes for quite a valuable work of art based upon supplies alone.

Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, 2012, Jen D'Arcy
The nail polish Website referred to Jen D'Arcy as "the renown portrait artist." She isn't. In researching the artist and her work, there is precious little background or examples of her work to be found. Last year the talented Australian artist submitted to the Archibald Prize competition a portrait of the Australian actress, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch (above). It wasn't accepted for display either. The two portraits are kilometers apart in appearance as, indeed, they should be given the differences in their subjects. The Murdoch portrait also appears to be painted with nail polish, though apparently the manufacturer didn't pick up on D'Arcy's choice of media until this year.

The painter, her portrait,
 and her palette.
Needless to say, D'Arcy's choice of painting media is a gimmick. That's not to put down either the artist or her chosen type of paint. To succeed, especially in the rarified portrait competition associated with the Archibald Prize, an artist must strive to stand apart. Talent, creativity, originality, showmanship, are all taken for granted. Jen D'Arcy (despite what the Website claims) is not renown, not yet even a respected name in Australian portraiture. If it takes working adroitly in a very difficult (not to mention expensive) medium to achieve any or all of the above, then we should be prepared to see her name listed among the entries, and likely the rejections, for some years to come. Many artists enter many times before gaining acceptance. However not many artists use nail lacquer to attain fame.



  1. Your statements are very unkind and judgemental and it sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder! Did you get rejected? The artwork should be judged on what it is alone, not a who's who, or, how many times have you entered. Her artwork is very good. Leave her alone!

  2. My dear unknown--

    You're correct in suggesting I've been rejected--many, many times, in fact, though not by the Archibald people (I'm not Australian). Rejection of my work or that of Miss D'Arcy is not a factor here. If you'll note the tenor of the piece I was not particularly harsh on the artist, only on those who were "using" her to sell a very expensive, and highly impractical art medium. Anyone who can paint portraits with nail polish is talented enough to paint much BETTER portraits in a more traditional medium. In striving for success, she's simply making it harder for herself with her gimmicky choice of media.