There's an inextricable link between the original coffee houses & creatives, artists whiling their days away, feeding from the buzz of caffeine & sipping on an exotic nectar, enticing the artistic rummagings of something special...
TOBY SMITH has played a major role for over a decade in shaping the burgeoning coffee community in Sydney, Australia & now even as far as New York City, opening in Brooklyn earlier this year. A master roaster at the helm of Toby’s Estate Coffee, an adventurer & an avid & distinguished pioneer for the humble, the revered & ever intoxicating coffee bean. A passionate & dedicated man & a joy to be around, so of course I would be painting him for the Archibald, the timing was finally right this year.
Many years ago I met Toby, filing into a leafy courtyard in Sydney one Sunday afternoon for the sensory journey of one of his coffee appreciation workshops. It was mind blowingly spectacular. I found that the Ethiopian Harrar held a certain allure & we connected on a mutual love of Rimbaud & lemon tarts. I then ritualistically crossed half of the city, rain hail or shine for the perfect cup when Toby opened in Woolloomooloo on a very regular basis.
That sense of adventure, of the exotic can so easily be lost in this time & place, but sitting in that courtyard, that day & every time since when I've tasted a Toby's Estate Coffee the world’s mysteries & adventures are palpable in each sip, whispering stories untold, like each canvas I approach is pregnant with possibility. There’s definitely a parallel between our worlds, a kindred connection, being transported by the bean & by the brush, venturing into the wild unknown in search of perfection & character & impression, to tell a story...
Toby is the bridge between this world & era's gone by of hedonistic adventure, spice trails & pomp, with pick me up. He’s a contemporary trader. His impeccable coffee connects us to the world at large, to ourselves & to each other & each experience is always totally unique. He has a hand firmly on the pulse of urban life & his heart & soul melds with the fields & mountains & people of exotic lands, the rich soils where he treads, forever drawn to those little red cherries & their stories, weaving them through his own.
From bean to cup, it's a pure process & life cycle, when you sip from your demitasse you're taking in the life story of the bean, from it's humble beginnings, it's country of origin, the journey it has been on, the roasters hand & those who have touched it along the way & ultimately adding to its inherent story by folding it into the fabric of your own. Just like when you absorb the glaze of a canvas, there is an entire life & narrative beneath the surface, & in the case of portraiture, it's the melding of two, artist & subject & I’ve been delighted to paint a man I truly admire & whom I also consider a friend.
Although we didn't make the final 41 out of 839 entries to hang in the AGNSW, the expression & connection people have experienced with the work thus far has been lovely & thank you all for you kind words & support.
- The LISA MADIGAN philosophy is simple, enhance your life with beauty, simple, luxurious, essential beauty and share the pleasure with friends and loved ones.