A grandfather turns his head towards the television, a portrait of seriousness as his grandson quietly snaps a photo of his pensive face.

The candid image, rendered in brushstrokes of warm brown touched with vivid blues and greens, now hangs at The Art Gallery of NSW where it has a very good chance of winning this year’s Young Archie Prize.

Steven Puwadi, a Year 12 student at Corpus Christi College Maroubra, is the artist behind the work.

Titled My Kung Kung, the portrait is a sweet and vibrant sequel to a painting of his grandmother which won the Sydney Catholic Schools’ annual portrait prize in 2023.

“To have a prestigious event specifically recognise younger people and put their work on that same plane as professional artists is inspiring.” – Steven Purwadi

In the year since then, Steven has worked with professional artists at a multi-day intensive workshop with the National Art School in Darlinghurst to take his painting to a new level.

“For my grandmother’s portrait, I took a very staged photo, bought a hat for her to wear specifically for the portrait, edited it in photoshop and aimed to copy it as closely as I could,” he said.

“This time I was more confident and experimental with my form. I wanted to be more spontaneous.”

Steven said it felt great to be a finalist in the respected Young Archie prize.

“To have a prestigious event specifically recognise younger people and put their work on that same plane as professional artists is inspiring,” he said.

Steven said his grandfather first saw his portrait on the Art Gallery of NSW website. 

“I typed my name in Google and the result was his portrait and my grandmother’s portrait next to each other. He was like ‘that’s so nice!’”

Steven put the likeness of his grandfather on canvas in just eight hours. He names British artist Paul Wright as an influence and inspiration. 

“His work is so vibrant, spontaneous and quick,” Steven said.

Steven plans to complete a fine arts degree once he graduates from high school.

He is developing a distinct style that will also feature in the series of self portraits and still life segments that make up his HSC Visual Arts major work.

Corpus Christi’s Visual Arts teacher Pam Higgins has taught Steven since Year 7 and said it was apparent early on that he had an innate talent to be nurtured.

“He is way beyond his years in terms of his technical ability and always was, even in Year 7,” Ms Higgins said.

“He has this raw, natural talent but he doesn’t take that for granted. He is tenacious and never gives up.”

Ms Higgins said Steven’s art peers shared a desire to be the best they could at each expressive form, from drawing and printmaking to ceramics. 

They treat art seriously, creating a great classroom culture for developing artistic skills.

“Every time I threw a new medium at Steven he took to it like a duck to water,” Ms Higgins said.

“He has this ability to adapt to whichever medium he’s working in and an intrinsic motivation to develop as an artist.”

About the Young Archies

The Young Archie competition is a portrait prize for budding artists aged 5 to 18.

 All finalists are displayed at The Art Gallery of New South Wales alongside the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize exhibitions.

The Young Archies works are on display at The Art Gallery of NSW until 8 September.

*Young Archie 2024 finalist, 16–18 years, Steven Purwadi, age 17, Campsie, NSW, ‘My kung kung’, oil on paper, image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling