Artist Craig Ruddy dies from COVID-19 complications aged 53

Craig Ruddy
Image: Craig Ruddy Facebook

Archibald Prize-winning artist Craig Ruddy died yesterday from complications due to COVID in Byron Bay. A statement on his Facebook page said Craig passed away in the arms of partner Roberto Meza Mont.

“It is with the heaviest of tender hearts we let you know that last night Craig left his body peacefully at home in Roberto’s arms.

“We have lost the most divine human that gave so much to our communities, the creativity, the inspiration, the pure love and plenty of dance.”

Both Craig and partner Roberto tested positive to COVID a few weeks ago.

Craig Ruddy

Craig Ruddy won the Archibald Prize in 2004 with a charcoal drawing of actor David Gulpilil titled Two Worlds.

The artwork confronted issues of Indigenous recognition and reconciliation. His strong connection to First Nations communities often featured in Craig’s work. In 2020, he entered a portrait of Aboriginal writer Bruce Pascoe into the same competition. He said that reading Pascoe’s controversial book Dark Emu inspired the painting.

Another artist challenged Craig Ruddy’s 2004 win in court, claiming his use of charcoal made the work a drawing, not a painting. However, the NSW Supreme Court dismissed the claim.

Byron Bay Mayor Michael Lyon confirmed Craig Ruddy’s death in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“Tragically, we have learned today that Craig Ruddy, well-known locally-based artist and Archibald Prize winner, has died as a result of complications from COVID-19.

“Our thoughts are with his partner and family.”

The mayor said he knew Craig well as a neighbour of almost 10 years. He said he felt devastated and caught off guard, thinking his friend was on the path to recovery.

“I think it’s probably the first death we’ve had in the Byron Shire and certainly comes as a shock and surprise. He’s such a deeply loved and respected local artist.

“He had such a fantastic artistic career and has been cut short by COVID.”

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