Lockdown Alice

• Ever So Slightly Mad by Anne McCaughey.

SHE’S done a painting for Prince Charles, rubbed shoulders with Vivienne Westwood, and now Anne McCaughey’s painting Ever So Slightly Mad has been shortlisted for the inaugural National Capital Art Prize.

The Fremantle artist says the oil painting is an Alice in Wonderland pastiche of Judy Hendrickse, a deputy principal at John Curtin College of the Arts who teaches dance.

“Judy was bemoaning the horror of trying to run a contemporary dance class through Zoom from her living room during lockdown,” McCaughey says.

“Together we formulated the idea of Giant Alice in an ever-shrinking house, so she dressed up for me and I did sketches and took photos, before I created the rest of the weird environment, full of slightly malevolent toys and the tripping hazard of the spiky ball.”

Growing up in Northern Ireland, McCaughey wanted to be a painter but her parents insisted she do something a bit more secure in the arts field, so she agreed to study illustration at one of the top institutions in Brighton, England.

She excelled and ended up working as an illustrator for Vogue and Cosmopolitan in London in the 1980s, at the height of the super model craze and yuppie boom.

“I remember a time when a number of illustrators and myself were asked to do live painting of Vivienne Westwood’s latest fashions on a set of wild models for an edition of French Vogue who were far more innovative than British Vogue,” she says.

“I eventually returned to Ireland and set up my own gallery being one of the first women in Northern Ireland to do so, moving as I had always wanted into painting.”

After meeting a “gorgeous Australian” in a bar in Belfast, she fell in love and moved to Fremantle in 2004, where she now works from a studio in Packenham Street and teaches visual arts students at John Curtin College of the Arts.

But occasionally her mind drifts back to the shores of Northern Ireland and the time she was commissioned to do a painting for an unnamed visiting dignitary.

“After the work had been presented to him at a very public ceremony, at which I was not present, I got a telephone call from a man with a very posh English accent stating that he was the equerry for Prince Charles and just wanted to pass on that the Prince had really loved my work,” McCaughey says. 

“Thinking it was my father playing a joke, I said ‘Awww, come on daddy…Stop it!’” 

“Only to be greeted by a very puzzled, ‘Pardon me?’ from the other end of the phone.”

The category winners of The National Capital Art Prize will be announced on September 17.


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