By Bronwyn Hill
2019 Winner of the Sylvia Jones Prize for Women Artists
Proudly supported by
Clem Jones Foundation
About the artist
Bronwyn Hill is a Brisbane based painter, who focuses on portrait and figurative work. Hill is known for her photorealistic oil paintings, using a contrast of high detail and soft layering techniques. Hill has been involved in many exhibitions across Australia including the finalists showcase for the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award and the Portia Geach Memorial Award. She recently won the 2017 Clayton Utz Art Award.
About the sitter
Robbie Miller is a young Brisbane artist brought up to the sounds of Cat Stevens, Van Morrison and Neil Young. Robbie first picked up a guitar in 2002 and soon after started writing and recording music. His passion saw him graduate music from QUT in 2010 and has since developed his unique, solo sound. He is a long time mentor/program manager for the national Indigenous organisation AIME. Miller was my next door neighbour growing up and came to mind when thinking of the subject for this portrait not only for his talent but his humility and passion for others. 2013 saw Robbie take out the NIMA for Best New Indigenous talent which kickstarted his musical journey.
Bronwyn Hill’s portrait of singer-songwriter Robbie Miller gets right to the heart of its subject – a musician content to write and perform in isolation, until the ‘bedroom to broadcast’ trajectory of arare nascent talent propelled him into view. Rather than depicting Miller in performative mode, Hill strikes a more solitary and reflective note, at home and away from the public gaze. What’s unusual about this portrait is that so much of its figuration is comprised not of its human subject but of the things that surround and enfold him. The crumpled cushions and throws rise up in the foreground like a shield of domestic intimacy on standby, while the more formal architectural arrangement of the apartment helps to hold the painting’s spatial organisation. And formally organised it is, with the sitter’s head placed on the vertical axis of the Golden Ratio which, since Classical times, has been used to create what was considered to be an ‘ideal’ or ‘natural’ relationship between two parts (the value of which is expressed as 1.618, or phi). This mathematical principle, whose mystery underpins the Fibonacci sequence in nature, has informed the composition of art, architecture and design for millennia. It has clearly not been lost on Hill, who portrays Miller as being simultaneously active and still, his left foot and hand precisely centred on the diagonal across the square format of the canvas. For all of that, the key to this painting’s success is the unerring control of Hill’s soulful composition in light.
Chris Saines CNZM
Brisbane Portrait Prize Judge, 2019
About Sylvia Jones
The $5,000 Sylvia Jones Prize for Women Artists is proudly supported by The Clem Jones Foundation
Sylvia Jones (1909-1999) performed many different roles and made a significant contribution to the City of Brisbane as Lady Mayoress during her husband Clem’s record term as Lord Mayor from 1961 to 1975.
Noted for modernising the city — especially its road, transport, water, sewerage, and community and sporting infrastructure — the administration led by Clem Jones also helped to develop and expand Brisbane’s cultural life with Sylvia as Lady Mayoress playing an active and leading role.
Clem and Sylvia Jones both took a personal interest in Brisbane’s cultural life and development.
As Lady Mayoress, Sylvia established the Brisbane City Council’s historical and arts collection, and encouraged and lent her support to Brisbane artists and their exhibitions.
She also chaired numerous charity fundraising events including the Lord Mayor’s Charity Ball and the Lord Mayor’s Command Performance.
Sylvia Jones had a deserved reputation as a gracious and approachable woman who, as Lady Mayoress, entertained with diplomacy and style, and was a notable ambassador for the City of Brisbane wherever she went.