Earlier this week, the Art Gallery of NSW announced the winner of the Archibald Prize 2021 ANZ People’s Choice award: Julia Ciccarone’s self-portrait, The sea within. Painted at home during the 2020 Melbourne lockdown, Ciccarone depicts herself lying barefoot beneath a blanket, her head resting on a suitcase (brought to Australia from Italy by her father when he migrated in the 1950s) and with her paintbrushes clutched in her left hand. Behind her looms a vividly painted seascape that dominates the canvas and seems ready to engulf the sleeping Ciccarone.

In a statement on the Art Gallery of NSW’s website, Ciccarone says: ‘When I painted this work, life was intense and overwhelming. It’s hard to believe that we are still experiencing times of great uncertainty, more than a year on. I believe we share in a collective trauma. But the ocean – which features large in my life and art – is my healing place. Water is a universal symbol of the unconscious mind. Whenever I dive into the ocean, I am diving into my own subconscious, awake and aware. It brings me great joy to know that so many people connected with my work.’

Due to the extension of the Greater Sydney lockdown until 30 September, the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2021 exhibition will not reopen in Sydney. All Archibald Prize 2021 finalists can be viewed on the Art Gallery website and the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2021 exhibition can be experienced via the 360-degree immersive virtual visit as part of the Archie at Home suite of digital content.