Archibold Prize winner exhibits at Benalla Art Gallery

Exhibition: Archibald Prize winner Peter Wegner is presenting The Centenarians at Benalla Art Gallery until August 28. Photo by Simon Ruppert

Benalla Art Gallery will launch a new exhibition by 2021 Archibald Prize winner Peter Wegner on Friday, July 1.

The exhibition, titled The Centenarians, celebrates a project that started in 2013 when Wegner drew his Aunty Rita.

This formative sitting inspired Wegner to seek out other Centenarians who were still living lives with mobility, curiosity and purpose.

In the years since Rita’s portrait, the artist has completed portraits of more than 100 Centenarians across Victoria and NSW.

Mr Wegner said each drawing was completed from life in an afternoon or morning with little alteration to that first impression.

“They are moments captured within a time allowed,” Mr Wegner said.

“The exploration of ageing and how well we age is central to this project.

“Maintaining human dignity and independent living are important issues as we age, alongside the question of what it means to have a productive and meaningful life.

“One’s good fortune in life was acknowledged by nearly all of my sitters — sometimes bewilderment about having reached such an age was expressed.”

The artist’s exploration of ageing is particularly relevant in Benalla, where the median age is about 12 years older than the national average, as revealed in the 2016 Census.

Benalla Art Gallery director Eric Nash said he was particularly excited for the prominent local representation.

“Peter has gone to great lengths since lockdown ended to seek out and draw Centenarians from Benalla,” Mr Nash said.

“There are three of these portraits within the exhibition of 20 works from his ongoing series.

“We’re extremely grateful to Sylvia Draeger, Gene Fuleky, and Bill Gregory for taking part.

“These are incredible portraits by one of the country’s leading draughtsman, as recognised last year when he won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of 100-year-old peer, Guy Warren.

“The works go beyond a physical likeness through Peter’s eagerness to get to know his subjects, and to learn from them.

“In essence he uses drawing as a medium to interview his sitters.”

Peter Wegner’s The Centenarians will be on display until August 28.

The community will have the opportunity to attend a free talk by Mr Wegner at 10am on Monday, July 4.

Numbers for the talk are strictly limited, reserve your place by emailing gallery@benalla.vic.gov.au