Lithuanians in the news
7th April, 2006
Josonia Palaitis is Archibald Prize Finalist 2006
Michael Kirby and Josonia Palaitis
in the Artist's studio with Kirby's portrait
The well-known painter Josonia Palaitis has entered the portrait of The Hon. Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG in the Archibald Prize Competition this year. The portrait, chosen from over 800 entries, was listed among the finalists. Josonia is a member of the Australian Lithuanian community through her marriage to Australian Lithuanian Ed Palaitis.
What makes this portrait an outstanding work? It is the feeling that a living human being is looking at you. The painter has achieved this optical illusion by placing the subject on a dark background with subtle nuances and letting the light fall from the left on a tuft of hair, the face and the dazzling white shirt. These features lift the figure out of the dark background. The three-dimensional illusion is further enhanced by the double row of lightly flecked buttons on the coat, the long red tie and the barely perceptible, subtle light outline of the right arm. The onlooker has the feeling
'Justice Michael Kirby',
oil painting by Josonia Palaitis 2006
that the subject is emerging from behind a dark velvety curtain. The flesh-coloured hands, half-ensconced in the pockets with protruding thumbs, give the subject an appearance of ease. They form the base of the triangular composition, which leads to the top of the head and is repeated in smaller versions in the white collar and the opening of the jacket. A satisfying well thought out composition. The colour scheme is restricted and soft and put on with fine brushstrokes. The artist confesses that "she has used several layers of pigment underneath the dark and black paints" for the background. The feather light reddish hues scattered over this background also relieve its darkness. The colour variations are concentrated on the subjectís head and face to reveal external appearance and the inner being.
However, the riveting feature in the portrait is the eyes. They divide the face into two sides that express the duality of the subject. The left eye and side belongs to the impartial arbiter the judge who "sometimes has hard things to do," as Justice Michael Kirby has said. The right eye looks with compassion at you. This is emphasised by the damaged skin that gradually darkens. Here lies the realm of human feelings, amongst them grief and sympathy. This is a judge and a man with a unique personality that the painter Josonia Palaitis has understood and successfully depicted on a canvas.
Josonia Palaitis has been six times the Archibald Prize finalist and the Peopleís Choice Award winner for her portrait of fellow painter Bill Leak in 1995. In 1994 she has won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for her fatherís portrait and in 2002 she was commended for her motherís portrait. Both parents were visual artists. Her other commissions include a double portrait of Prime Minister John Howard and his wife Janette and the Childers Memorial Portrait of fifteen backpackers who died in the hostel fire in 2000. Many of her works are in galleries and in private collections.

Isolde PoĢelaitŽ-Davis AM
Sydney, 26.03.2006