The 2023 Victorian Salon des Refusés
This portrait was submitted to the 2023 Archibald Prize.
click on artwork to enlarge
Cat#30 Catherine Paton
IN THE DARK AND IN THE LIGHT
Oil on Canvas
92 w x 183 h cm
In studio I did rough sketching and photos of Helena with hair tied into a tight bun, minimal makeup, as she chatted and sang a beautiful low melody; this was the basis for the upper image, ‘in the dark’ a study of the private dedicated disciplined preparation of a musician.
We worked in Helena’s tiny, shared dressing room backstage at the Athenaeum the day of dress rehearsal as her makeup artist ‘vanished’ quirky, vivacious Helena into the cold calculating evil daughter of a Pope; this inspiring the lower image of Helena presenting herself to her public ‘and in the light’.
I’m a sort-of singing artist, with the emphasis on art. When bubbly young soprano, Lucy, told me with great reverence she’d had singing lessons with Helena Dix and artistic director, Andrew Wailes, spoke with great affection about this opera singer and her mother, Norma, who he called “such a character” I realised I had found a great subject to paint.
This London-based Australian soprano, Helena, further caught my attention when she received a fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music, her high notes were inspiringly likened to the sparkle in a duchess tiara.
Helena is world renowned as a coloratura bel-canto opera singer having accomplished an impressive number of leading roles most famously 3 times playing ‘Norma’ with the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Helena did a whirlwind trip home to see her family and sing the role of Lucrezia Borgia with Melbourne Opera.