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.
earlier life and 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.