A HARROWING portrait of clergy sexual abuse survivor David Ridsdale has been entered in the prestigious Archibald Prize.
Ballarat artist Domenico Milivoj Micich was compelled to use the nephew of one of Australia’s most notorious pedophiles, Gerald Ridsdale, as the subject of his artwork in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Mr Micich, who was sexually abused himself during his childhood in Italy, said his portrait, Magnum Silencium: David Ridsdale and the bribe, was particularly controversial due to Mr Ridsdale’s connection to his uncle and Cardinal George Pell.
It is also encompassed a deeper message.
“It explores the struggle for justice,transparency and finally healing,” Mr Micich said.
Testifying at the Royal Commission earlier this year, Mr Ridsdale revealed he had told Cardinal Pell in a 1993 phone call, he had been repeatedly raped by his uncle.
He then said Cardinal Pell had attempted to bribe him to keep quiet.
“I depicted David as a new Hamlet,” Mr Micich said. “A dark prince of Shakespeare with a weight on his shoulders and his heart. He has a mission and destiny he must uphold before he dies. But he is forever unsettled and carries the pain of the past as many survivors of sexual abuse do."
The painting depicts two images of Mr Ridsdale inside the lens of sunglasses his uncle wore to court the day he was accompanied by Cardinal Pell in 1993. The infamous photograph has been shared across the world.
In the background a holy-like, ghostly figure of a man lurks. Dressed in a religious cloak one of his arms is attempting to shield his face away. A phone in Mr Ridsdale’s hand depicts the bribery conversation with Cardinal Pell.
Mr Micich said he acknowledged allegations of sexual abuse were made against Mr Ridsdale in the past, but he stood by the integrity and complex tapestry of his artwork.
Mr Micich said the role of an artist was to challenge and explore often unspeakable truths in the name of art which left the interpretation up to the individual observer.
“An artist no less speaks or makes known something that at times is an unpleasant truth," he said
“Painted pictures are dead speakers. They conjure confronting messages, their own narrative and they can speak volumes.”
The prize is one of the most renowned exhibitions across the country and will be showcased at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in October.