Craig Ruddy is an award winning contemporary artist who lives and works in The Pocket in Northern NSW Australia.
Craig Ruddy is renowned for his dramatic figurative portraits that are often interwoven into richly textured abstracted landscapes. Ruddy’s art practice explores the space between our real and mythical connections to the land and environment. His work reflects a deeply personal ongoing spiritual journey, where the artist explores questions of social conscience as well as current environmental issues. The recognition of Australian Indigenous People and Culture is also a core theme that has permeated the narrative of his past work and exhibitions.
Craig Ruddy’s inimitable painting style pushes the traditional boundaries of this classic medium. His work process involves a complex layering of mixed mediums that include paint, charcoal, pencil drawing, varnish and even glass. Ruddy’s figures become inseparable from the landscapes in which they reside. His unique use of layering creates an illusion of transparency, whereby the foreground and background seem to both simultaneously co-exist and disappear, becoming one and the same. The illusory technique mirrors a deeper spiritual metaphor; the interconnectedness of all things.
The artist’s work is a continuing tribute to his surroundings, country and the people that reside within it. Ruddy’s practice is intuitive and organic. His use of free flowing sensitive lines combined with a vibrant dynamic colour palate result in bold paintings that are both sensual and powerful, aptly reflecting the inspiration he draws from the Australian landscape.
EARLY LIFE / CAREER
Born in Forestville in 1968, Craig Ruddy grew up surrounded by natural bushland living near Ku-ring-gai Chase and Garigal National Parks. The unique circumstances of his childhood and surrounding environment were to have a significant lifelong impact on the artist.
As a child, Craig Ruddy was plagued with a life threatening illness, unsure whether he would live to adulthood his parents greatly limited his physical activities. Ruddy hence turned his attention to drawing and painting. His ongoing illness gave early rise to profound existential questions and imbued Ruddy with a sensibility and need to question his sense of place within his vast natural surroundings. This early period of life greatly influenced the artists practice and the questions raised in childhood are themes which continue to define the narrative of his work today.
In the late 1980’s Craig Ruddy studied design and fashion illustration in Sydney. He worked as a landscape gardener, designer and art director, eventually settling down in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Tamarama. Craig’s home in the Eastern suburbs became a revolving door for many of the international travelers, artists and bohemians passing through Sydney at the time. This exposure to new energy from abroad and fresh ideas was to create a pivotal turning point in his life. Inspired and encouraged by his friends, in 2001 he took a leap of faith and quit his successful design career in order to pursue his life-long passion for art and painting.
In 2004 he came to the attention of the wider community upon winning Australia’s most prestigious painting prize for his highly controversial and publicized portrait of Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. Craig Ruddy became one of the most talked about winners in the history of the Archibald Prize. His seminal portrait was profoundly important for Australia with its timely message about indigenous recognition and reconciliation. The prize winning painting became the subject of an unsuccessful NSW Supreme Court challenge by another artist who claimed the portrait was not a painting and ineligible for the prize as it was predominantly created with charcoal. After an epic two- year court battle the case was eventually dismissed. The controversy however became etched in the collective memory, and Ruddy’s portrait of David Gulipili is now considered one of the most iconic and recognized paintings in Australia.
Following the success of many sold out solo shows in Sydney, Craig Ruddy travelled for several years between Europe and South America in order to continue and develop his art practice. He set up a secondary home and studio in Buenos Aires Argentina.
In 2015 Craig Ruddy felt a strong pull to once again reconnect to nature and the land which had so greatly influenced his work. He moved back to Australia to build a studio in the Byron Hinterland nestled in the hilltops and surrounded by bushland where he feels most at home and inspired.
The Archibald Prize is the most prestigious painting prize in Australia, awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.
This open competition is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Finalists are displayed in an exhibition at the Gallery.
The Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921. In establishing the prize, JF Archibald’s aim was to foster portraiture as well as support artists and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. Over the years some of Australia’s most prominent artists have entered and the subjects have been equally celebrated in their fields.
CRAIG RUDDY AND THE ARCHIBALD PRIZE
Craig Ruddy has been a winner and finalist of the Archibald prize and the People’s Choice Award.
2003/ Self Portrait
Salon des refuses – National Trust – S.H.Ervin Gallery
2004 / Portrait of David Gulpilil “Two Worlds”
Archibald Prize Winner
Winner of the People’s choice award in Sydney and Melbourne.
David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu AM, is an Aboriginal actor and traditional dancer.
2006/ Self Portrait “Into the box”
Finalist Archibald Prize
2010 / Portrait of Warwick Thornton “The Prince of Darkness”.
Archibald Prize Finalist
Winner of the people’s choice award
Warwick Thornton is an aboriginal writer/director, won the Camera d’Or for Best Feature Film at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for Samson & Delilah.
SELECTED RECENT WORKS
AWAKENING SPIRIT 2017
In his latest exhibition “Awakening Spirit”, Ruddy acknowledges the Indigenous Australian’s that continue to remain invisible. These new works aim to represent the voices that have gone unheard as well as those still present that are continuing to fight for their human rights. It is a work of recognition as to the resilience of a people, who maintain their cultural connection & sovereign responsibility to look after country, despite the great challenge of upholding their heritage in the face of continued colonisation and industrialisation.
WILD GRASS 2016
In Wild Grass, the constant motion of the Australian wild grass in the landscape reminds us of what is important for us to successfully exist in a place. Tangled bodies become one with the ground and sky, as the sensual drifting lines of Craig Ruddy’s nudes morph into the landscape. The powerful and evocative picture plane works as a visual metaphor for our human desire to be connected to our environment. Residing in the Byron hinterland of Northern NSW, the environment has become a powerful influence for the artist. Ruddy’s close proximity to the natural world has provided direction and constant inspiration. This fresh energy combined with Ruddy’s mastery of effortless composition, see lines and layers dance across the picture, rhythmically and raw. The works are powerful and dynamic in their rendering of the human connection with sensuality and the land.
REMNANTS – of an urban landscape.
Suburban waste bins become the focus of these abstract landscapes. The body of work explores the human mind as an open vast landscape obstructed by glimpses of perceived reality, etched with remnants of the past. We are simply vessels suspended in time, stitched to the eternal passage of life and death as we fill ourselves, empty, and then fill again.
Like ancient ruins, waste bins scattered throughout our urban landscapes become metaphors for the memories of their owners, the remnants that are left in ones mind by the constant flux of life. Past memories, some fully loaded others sprawled empty. Each is potent with its sense in being, though many remain simply as waste, like scratches on a rolling film. We grasp at them constantly in an attempt to complete a picture, to understand what has been before and to foresee a path ahead, weaving between parallel universes, spinning our web to which we cling to as life.
Craig Ruddy exhibits regularly and his works are held in numerous important private collections both in Australia and internationally. He has had solo exhibitions at the Cork Street Gallery in London, Nanda Hobbs Contemporary, Richard Martin, Trevor Victor Harvey, Graphis Gallery, Fringe Festival and S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney, as well as in group exhibitions at many Australian institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Faux Mo MONA, Broken Hill Art Gallery and Victoria Arts Centre.