Heath Ledger sat for a revealing portrait session just weeks before his tragic death on January 22.
Australian artist Vincent Fantauzzo tells PageSix.com his painting is the result of an intense collaboration between himself and the 28-year-old star. “Before we did the painting we talked to all hours,” he says. “The night before, we talked about the painting and about art, and about all sorts of things.”
The haunting image “was an idea we discussed together and came up with… it was about how we all have different consciences and voices in our head that tell us what to do and how to react. They’re not good or bad, they’re just voices that we hear, telling us how to behave. That’s what the other figures are in the painting.”
When it came to the sitting, however, the talk stopped. “Heath was really serious and focused and almost in a meditation. He’s quite serious.”
The friends, who met via Australian pop star N’fa (Heath directed a few of his music videos), had been planning the portrait for years. “Heath was very private. He never let anyone paint him for that reason, because he felt it was quite a personal thing, to be painted. I think Heath was really feeling quite comfortable with himself recently, so it was easy to do it this time around. He gave me a call [in December] and said he was in Perth… so I jumped on a plane right away, and that’s where we did the painting.”
Heath sat for a few hour-plus sessions, and then Vincent finished off the painting. Unfortunately, the actor never saw the finished product.
“It’s a real shame, because I never let people see a painting until it’s completely finished. I had been text-messaging photos to all our friends, and he was the only one who didn’t get to see it.”
Since Heath’s death, Vincent has been inundated with e-mails from fans all over the world. He says, “It’s amazing how many people he touched, and it’s pretty cool to be a part of sharing” the Heath that he knew. That Heath “loved and adored” daughter Matilda, got involved in his friends’ projects, and lit up a room. “He was very free-spirited and he took his own road, his own path to success. When you met Heath or when you were in a room with Heath, he had such an amazing energy, such a strong presence.”
Vincent hopes that comes through in the work. “Heath had such a distinctive voice, I wanted people to look at the painting and think of his voice and what he could be saying. I think that when someone looks at the painting, it’s tempting to know what he’s saying or what he’s whispering, so they can imagine it themselves, but they’ll never know.”
Vincent’s painting is up for Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture, which was his and Heath’s plan all along. Still, for the artist and other friends who knew Heath, the focus remains on their loss. “It’s just been really hard on everyone. I think now is a really hard time, because reality kind of kicks in. Time slows down and everyone just misses him.”
Posted Thursday, February 21st, 2008 at 4:16pm
Filed under Heath Ledger