Sydney artist Tony Costa has taken home the coveted Archibald Prize for 2019, for his portrait of Lindy Lee, a leading contemporary artist and practicing Buddhist.

“I listened to an interview Lindy gave at the AGNSW and found myself agreeing with many of her ideas. I was attracted to her wisdom, humility, courage, humour and, above all, her deep focus regarding her art practice,” Costa told the ABC.

Costa had been a finalist in 2015, 2017 and 2018, but this is the first time he has won the $100,000 prize. A whopping 919 entries were submitted this year, a record for the award.

Credit: Lindy Lee by Tony Costa / Art Gallery Of NSW

Costa also explained his process regarding his winning portrait.

“I approach each painting with an empty head, beginning every portrait with charcoal drawings as I collect sensations and information. The challenge for me is to trap the energy of my sitter — the emotional feeling over and above the physical reality. In my portrait of Lindy, I have kept the colour minimal to avoid any visual noise. Ultimately the invention and the unity of the work is what matters most.”

The 2019 exhibition is, according to the ABC, “distinctive in it’s diversity”. Among the 51 finalists there are eight Indigenous Australians, nine Australians of Asian descent and more female sitters than men. Artist-wise, men still dominate but the gap has closed, with 23 female finalists to 28 male.

Credit: Tjuparntarri – women’s business by David Darcy / Art Gallery Of NSW

The finalists will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW, before going on tour across the nation over the year.

Image: Art Gallery Of NSW