Sir Les packs Archibald punch
Tim Storrier poses with a set of Sir Les's dentures and the portrait, Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Image

Tim Storrier's tribute to Australia's leading cultural ambassador Sir Les Patterson has won the packer's prize as the finalists were unveiled in the Archibald Prize today.

Storrier, who won the 2012 Archibald Prize with a faceless self-portrait, joked that after years of requesting a portrait sitting with Sir Les he had finally been granted access after a suitable gratuity was transacted through his long-time manager, Barry Humphries.

WA artist Abdul Abdullah's portrait of Aboriginal artist and activist Richard Bell as an astronaut is the only WA contender among the 54 finalists for the $75,000 prize to be announced on July 18.

Born in Perth in 1986, Abdullah has followed up his 2011 and 2013 appearances as a finalist with the large oil on canvas entitled I Wanted to Paint Him as a Mountain.

"I see him as mountainous - hence the title - the type of person who fills a room when he enters it," Abdullah said.

"From there it was a small step to visualising him in a space suit, casting a discerning, critical gaze on this country from space as if to say, 'you've messed it all up'."

Among the other finalists are portraits of Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, rock musician Tim Rogers, Olympic gold-medal cyclist Anna Meares, AFL star and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes and comedian Anh Do's Archibald debut painting of his father.

The Packing Room Prize is decided by Art Gallery of NSW staff, with head storeman Steve Peter having the ultimate say.

"Saville Row tailors say 'certain men are moving targets' and Sir Les is no exception," Storrier said of his entry.

"During our long sittings, I attempted to keep him engaged with his tipple and cigarettes. To paint such a dynamic, thrusting personality with the sensitivity that a personage of his flamboyance deserves, I drew on my knowledge of historic portraits of great men of destiny.

"There were subtle technical difficulties in arranging the deportment of Sir Les's trousers. His pretty, young assistant often strutted into the room and I would have to rearrange the lights so his enthusiasm in her presence was not as pronounced. After the final sitting, his parting words to me were: 'You are probably not a bad little dauber Timbo but not in the league of the great Pro (Hart)'."

Finalists for the 2014 Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced at the gallery today. This year there were 884 Archibald, 669 Wynne and 534 Sulman The exhibition of all three prize finalists runs from July 19 to September 28.

The West Australian

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