The big switch – portrait of Dr Saul Griffith

Jude Rae, The big switch – portrait of Dr Saul Griffith, 2022, oil on linen, solar panels, 209.80 x 239.70 cm, TCG22534
(photo: The Art Gallery of New South Wales)

finalist The 2022 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


In March 2022, Jude Rae heard Sydney-born inventor and engineer Saul Griffith on the radio. He was talking about using electricity to replace technologies that still run on combustion, such as petroleum, coal and gas. The new technologies powered by renewable energy would dramatically cut emissions and – with Australia’s natural advantages – help our economy, not hurt it.

She contacted his San Francisco office, offering to paint his portrait for the Archibald Prize if he was in Australia, to find that he had just relocated his family to Wollongong in NSW.

‘My portraits are always collaborations but this one went to the next level. We only had a month and the solar panels were quite an adventure. When we tried to cut them with a water jet, the toughened glass fractured but they were so beautiful we went with it,’ says Rae.

‘Like this portrait, Australia’s climate policy is now going right down to the wire. It is crazed and cracked but the recipe is simple – electrify everything with renewables. We have to stop having debates, develop policies and hand the plans to engineers who are ready and waiting to get it done. Like Saul, they want to plug Australia into an abundant future.’


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