Glenfield musician L-Fresh the Lion's portrait an Archibald Prize finalist

L-FRESH the LION, acrylic on canvas, Claus Stengl

L-FRESH the LION, acrylic on canvas, Claus Stengl

Australia's most famous art award has a bit of Macarthur flavour this year.

Finalists for the Archibald Prize were announced this morning and a portrait of Glenfield musician L-FRESH the Lion is among those celebrated artworks.

L-FRESH, real name Sukhdeep Singh, was painted by English-born artist Claus Stangl for the famed portrait prize.

He said he had a fantastic time working with Stangl and connected with his process and values as an artist.

"It was a pretty cool experience," Singh said.

"Claus is just really genuine, and that speaks volumes when an artist comes from a good place and speaks with their heart to portray their message.

"Claus not only does that well, he does that really well."

Singh said the whole opportunity came about when he was working on the theme song for the Sydney Kings basketball team.

Stangl's partner was involved with the Kings and thus the artist got to know Singh. He wanted to paint someone for the Archibald Prize, and Singh fit the bill.

"Claus said he liked what my work stands for and represents, and I was really honoured that he reached out," Singh said.

"We got together and had a cup of coffee and a couple of weeks later I sat for him in a studio with a photographer.

"The idea was not to have me sitting in any way that felt forced or posed or stage."

Singh said one of the big things Stangl tried to capture was the "hustle" of south-western Sydney people.

"When you're from south-west Sydney, it's drilled into you from an early age to hustle, that 'thrive and survive' mindset that runs through you wherever you go," he said.

"We talked about my boxing training at Bulldog Gym in Ingleburn, and how I wear a smaller turban when I'm training.

"So we used that smaller turban for the portrait and I started skipping before the photo was taken, to get that sweaty look.

"In south-west Sydney we're always punching above our weight, so that's what we tried to capture."

Singh said Stangl also painted him facing west, again emphasising his pride for his home.

"That was in direct connection to a Queen Elizabeth portrait, where she's facing east," he said.

"I thought that was really interesting on a number of different levels, including that in that Queen Elizabeth portrait, she's wearing a crown that has a particular diamond in it which had been stolen by the British Empire from Punjab, which is where my people are from.

"I had actually spoken about that in the lyrics on my recent album, but I'd never spoken to Claus about it directly.

"So when he mentioned that that portrait was a bit of inspiration, I thought it was really fitting and exemplified the thought and the process that he puts into his works."

Singh said this was not the first time he'd sat for a portrait, but it was the first time one had made it into the Archibald Prize.

"I'm blown away by the result," he said.

"I've never had a big understanding on how the art world works, but I know the status of the Archibald Prize and it is an honour to be hanging in that gallery and featured that way, in a room full of amazing portraits of people who've done incredible things."

On the Art Gallery of NSW website, Stangl explains some of the thought behind the portrait.

"L-FRESH's music touches on issues of social justice, such as racism and equality, with the purpose of inspiring positive change," he said.

"He taught me the significance of colour - how orange represents wisdom and navy blue is the colour of the warrior and of protection, which I incorporated.

"His regal side-profile is purposely reflective of how the monarchy is represented on coins, but whereas the Queen of England faces east, L-FRESH faces west, signifying a new perspective. Showing L-FRESH without his turban made the image more intimate. Instead he's wearing an orange-red patka, rarely seen by the public."

This story Glenfield musician L-Fresh the Lion's portrait an Archibald Prize finalist first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.