17 June 2024

Artist Caroline Zilinsky didn't know much about Hollywood it boy Jacob Elordi, when she started painting his portrait for Australia's most famous art prize. She hadn't seen him in two of last year's biggest films, Saltburn and Priscilla, the generation defining series Euphoria, or the Netflix trilogy The Kissing Booth. But she grasped the full scale of the Australian actor's fame when her portrait of him, unveiled as an Archibald Prize finalist at the Art Gallery of NSW, triggered headlines.

Zilinsky, who won the Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2020, said a friend had shown Elordi her work before suggesting he would be a good subject to paint. Zilinsky sketched Elordi, 26, in Stanwell Tops, NSW, on the set of the mini-series adaptation of Richard Flanagan's novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

"All I do is paint - I don't know what's going on," Zilinsky said. "I didn't want to delve too deeply into who he was because I wanted to paint my experience of him and the interaction between him and us. I'm so glad I did that without knowing the scope of who he was. I have slowly come to fathom how famous he is."

They had one hour together before Zilinsky spent the rest of the day watching him on set. He made an impression as a well-read, deep thinker, and, she added, far more than his good looks.

"He was warned numerous times that he was not going to be painted as a pretty boy," Zilinsky said.

"Because he was OK with that, it gave me complete freedom to paint how I wanted to."

Zilinsky noticed that Elordi was reading a copy of Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus - a philosophical essay from 1942 that draws on a figure from Greek mythology destined to push a boulder up a hill for eternity. The book became central to A Lucid Heart- The Golden Age of Jacob Elordi, which takes its title from a phrase Camus uses. The boulder from the myth is turned into a stone in Elordi's hands, and the book lies open on a shelf in the background alongside an airbrush machine, a dog tag prop, a make-up box, power generator and a camera Elordi's sister used to film the sitting. Elordi shared it on Instagram with his nearly 14 million followers, and tabloids around the world also got in the action. Metro in London ran with the headline "Oh Lordi! Is it really you?"

Zilinsky's gallery's website crashed from the traffic and nearly 800,000 people looked at her Instagram.

By Melanie Kembrey
SMH, 17 June, 2024


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