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Redefining Artistic Boundaries

Redefining Artistic Boundaries

Archibald Prize finalist. Very few titles carry as much weight in the Australian art world. Fifty-odd artists are awarded the title every year, with the collection exemplifying the diverse backgrounds, talents and stories of Australian artists and the subjects they choose to capture in canvas. As the prize moves to embrace diversity, it is vital to acknowledge the barriers neurodiverse artists face in accessing professional development pathways and opportunities. Dismantling these hurdles creates a more equitable environment, allowing talented artists previously marginalised to garner recognition and success alongside their peers naturally. Daniel Kim is just one of the four Studio A artists recognised as an Archibald Prize finalist in 2023. Before joining Studio A, Daniel found employment in an Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) doing unskilled work, earning less than $5 hourly. While this was a legally permitted arrangement due to his disability, it neither supported Daniel’s unmistakable artistic talent nor provided him with a meaningful income.

“Daniel has limited communication… but he can speak with art”.

Daniel is autistic. He faces challenges with conventional modes of communication, but in the words of his mother, Joy Kim, Daniel has always communicated through his art. His works radiate scale, whether it be through the size of his expansive, sweeping landscapes or the detailed quality of his hyperrealistic portraiture. His meticulous attention to detail makes each of his paintings intensely personal and conveys the pride and passion Daniel feels towards his craft. Art has always been a primary form of expression for Daniel. It’s what he loves doing, and to all those surrounding him, it clearly provides him with a sense of joy and a professional purpose. Since joining Studio A, Daniel has been provided pathways and opportunities for which he might have otherwise been overlooked. His first artwork to be recognised was his self titled self-portrait, which was accepted as a finalist in the National Youth Self Portrait Prize in 2010.

Soon after, in 2012, with the support of Studio A and an Arts NSW creative development grant, Daniel was provided the opportunity to work with the esteemed Greg Warburton, a six-time Archibald Prize finalist. What began as a ten-day mentorship developed into a ten-year working relationship, mentorship and friendship. Greg mentored Daniel through multiple works, including commissioned portraits of Craig Meller (previous CEO of AMP), Richard Grellman (Chair of AMP), John Ajaka (former Minister for Disability), Ray Williams (former Minister for Disability Services), and most recently NSW Liberal MP, Matt Kean. Greg and Daniel focused on Kim’s hyperrealistic style, harnessing his strengths and adding depth, expression and emotion to his pieces.

Although he dedicated much of his time to painting alongside Greg and Studio A, Daniel has demonstrated his versatility as an artist by immersing himself in various mediums and artistic practices. These pursuits yielded outstanding results at the esteemed 2018 Seed Stitch Contemporary Textile Awards hosted by the Australian Design Centre. Daniel’s textile creation, titled ‘Emu’, was honoured with the Highly Commended Award.

“It was heartbreaking to see the sadness and loss etched in the face of Studio A artist Daniel Kim, 
whom Greg had a very special and long-term connection.”

Greg’s passing in 2022 was especially difficult for Daniel, Studio A Principal Artist Emma Johnston recalls. Daniel created an album containing newspaper clippings, photos of Greg and himself, as well as the paintings they worked on together. The scrapbook highlights the strong connection the two artists share, as well as Daniel’s grieving process.

Soon after, Daniel painted an artwork that poignantly reflects the nuanced emotions he experienced upon losing his dear friend and mentor. Titled ‘Self Portrait, Holding Memories: My Mentor Greg Warburton,’ the self-portrait captures Daniel in a heartfelt moment as he leafs through the album of himself and Greg. Daniel’s love for Greg, the nostalgic weight of their shared memories, and the deep sadness accompanying his absence are skilfully captured in acrylic. Here, Daniel displays his artistic and individual development.

“Because I am no longer able to see Greg or have him sit for me, painting myself remembering him 
with my album meant that I could still connect with Greg and have him be part of my process and 

This portrait, Daniel’s 2023 Archibald submission, is a culmination of ten years of professional and personal growth, showcasing his ability to convey complex emotions through his creative expression. The artwork ultimately serves as a testament to Daniel’s artistic and personal growth as he imbues his work with incredible depth and emotion, a remarkable accomplishment frequently assumed to be unattainable by artists on the autism spectrum.

Coming almost full circle from the portrait he painted for the National Youth Self Portrait Prize, Daniel’s latest self-portrait communicates the intense journey he has travelled since 2010, culminating in Daniel Kim achieving one of the highest honours an Australian artist can achieve, having their artwork selected as a finalist in the Archibald Prize.

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Featured Image For Post: In Conversation with Shane Simpson

In Conversation with Shane Simpson

Will Kollmorgen speaks with Shane Simpson, Chair of Studio A, special counsel of Simpsons Solicitors and founder of the Arts Law Centre of Australia.


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