Cate Blanchett stars on Vogue Australia’s June/July 2020 cover – but not as you know it. The Academy Award-winning actor, while in lockdown in the UK, agreed to collaborate with Vogue on a special portrait with one of her favourite artists, Fiona Lowry, who, on the other side of the world, was also in lockdown. Lowry, an Archibald Prize-winning artist, agreed to paint Blanchett specially for this issue. The final product took two weeks to complete after Blanchett was photographed at home in the UK. Here, Vogue chatted to Lowry about the project.
Vogue: In preparation for Cate’s June-July cover, the two of you first spoke over the phone. What did you cover off in that initial phone chat?
Fiona Lowry: We discussed what the project was and how we could make an image that spoke to this moment in time. I shared some image references and we talked about the feeling they evoked. I spoke about what I saw were the phases I personally had gone through with Covid-19: the initial shock of job losses and anxiety about the future, the constant cleaning of ourselves and our homes, to what eventually became an opportunity for reflection and personal change as all our plans became inessential.
Vogue: How did you feel after speaking directly with Cate, as one creative to another?
Fiona Lowry: I really felt very excited about what was possible. There were so many elements to resolve: a portrait of Cate, a portrait of her reflecting the time and a portrait of Cate performing inside one of my paintings with all the connotations that my work brings with it. It really was a very special moment for me to be able to work with someone I have always found so inspiring.
Vogue: When you create a portrait like this, what is the very first step?
Fiona Lowry: In non-Covid times, I would meet with the person, sit with them and discuss ideas. Then we would go out into the landscape and I would photograph them playing out the ideas we had discussed to use for reference to make the paintings. I would then take the images back to the studio to use as a reference to make my paintings.
Vogue: Is the final product different from what you first anticipated would take shape?
Fiona Lowry: I had to let go of a certain amount of control and hope that my ideas were able to be translated without me being there. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would get from Cate and in that sense it was a collaboration with her to what ended up being produced in the end. There were so many beautiful images that she made for me to work with.
Vogue: What do you like most about the portrait?
Fiona Lowry: The sense of stillness, but there is also a feeling of nostalgia as the moment was so fleeting.