Australia’s most famous art competition, the $100,000 Archibald Prize, is back on after a delay caused by COVID-19, and no-one could be happier than Mullumbimby artist Zion Levy Stewart.
Zion, who has Down syndrome, has entered the competition for the second time with a portrait of another talented local – glass artist and abstract painter Noel Hart.
The extra tight deadline didn’t faze the 41-year-old who sprang into action as soon as the competition’s revised date was announced.
‘The tight deadline might have been a problem for some artists, but not for Zion,’ the artist’s mother Christine Levy says.
‘As soon as he found out he started doing some initial sketches on canvas.’
Zion entered the annual competition for the first time last year and, although he wasn’t selected among the finalists, his eye-catching portrait of Aboriginal elder, artist, musician and educator Walangari Karntawarra added to his growing reputation among local and overseas collectors when it was selected for show in the Salon des Refusés at TAP Gallery in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
Zion offered own exhibition
TAP Gallery has also offered Zion an exhibition of his own.
Every Friday Mr Hart comes to the house that Zion shares with his mother in Mullumbimby to support him with his artistic endeavours, which include sketches and ceramics, as well as painted canvases.
‘We’re able to pay Noel for his time using Zion’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding, which is fantastic given all the support he’s given Zion,’ Christine says.
‘Zion and Noel have a great relationship and he’s really encouraged Zion to work from his interests.
Non-verbal artist’s vibrant art speaks volumes
‘Zion is largely non-verbal but his vibrant art speaks volumes for his love of life and people.
‘It was just before Zion arrived in Mullumbimby, aged around 20, that his natural artistic talent was discovered after a family friend suggested Zion should try to sketch him while they sat together one day. The result astonished everyone.’
Since then his creativity has literally poured out, with Christine saying there’s barely a day in the past two decades when he hasn’t painted on canvas or worked clay.
‘He’s hardly noticed there’s been a lockdown because he spends every day painting and making ceramics at home in his studio,’ Christine says.
‘He actually wouldn’t have noticed at all except that he missed his usual outside activities due to the restrictions on personal contact.’
The Archibald Prize finalists and the Packing Room Prize winner will be announced on 17 September, with the winner announced on 25 September.
To see Zion’s artwork, go to www.zionart.com.au.