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'My super daddy': Matthew Chen wins Young Archibald for portrait of father

My super daddy by Matthew Chen Source: Matthew Chen

Eight-year-old Sydney boy Matthew Chen has won a Young Archie competition in the 5-8 year-old category for a portrait of his father. He describes his artwork as his “daddy very mysteriously and seriously looking at something.”

“I have drawn my dad because he is a great medical scientist and a wonderful father,” says Matthew Chen of his father and prize-winning portrait, My super daddy.

It took Matthew three entire days to draw his dad Dr Xin-Min Chen, associate professor at the Sydney Medical School of the University of Sydney. The proud father tells SBS Mandarin it was a wonderful experience.

“I’m proud of him, and I’m also thrilled,” says Dr Xin-Min Chen. “My friends and colleagues who saw the portrait all agreed that it looks exactly like me. It should be on the wall in my office.” 

My super daddy by Matthew Chen
My super daddy by Matthew Chen
Matthew Chen

What makes him even happier is that his son Matthew really understands the career he has devoted himself to.

“Matthew thinks my job is very helpful to the patients. He is proud of that, and that’s why I got to be his model.”

Matthew describes his artwork as “my daddy very mysteriously and seriously looking at something”.

As a medical scientist, Dr Xin-Min Chen’s research is focused on the process that diabetes leads to chronic kidney disease. He and his team have worked hard to find a way to diagnose diabetes at an early stage so that lesions can be prevented.

“Usually when I work, I make sure that I’m concentrated without any disruption. I was actually thinking a difficult problem when Matthew was drawing me, therefore it looks a bit mysterious,” says Dr Chen.

Dr Chen himself was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which has helped him understand the impact upon patients, their families and the whole society that this disease has.

Xin-Min Chen and Matthew Chen
Xin-Min Chen and Matthew Chen
Xin-Min Chen

Due to a high workload, the time that Dr Chen can spend with Matthew is very limited. Queried on that, Matthew says of his father, “He is very smart. He always tries to think of something. He is always busy. He loves me and often plays with me.”

Under the influence of his dad, Matthew is also thinking about becoming a medical scientist, but since drawing is his favourite pastime now, his dream is to become an artist and a scientist at the same time.

Matthew has not gone through any professional training for painting and draws out of his own interests. He liked drawing sharks and tigers when he was four-years-old, and later he started to draw himself and his favourite model of all — his mum.

In fact, it was 2016 when Matthew entered the Young Archie competition for the first time with a painting of his mother. In 2017, he entered a self-portrait and was successfully shortlisted. Finally this year, his drawing My super daddy won the 5-8 year-old category of the competition.

My Mum by Matthew Chen
My Mum by Matthew Chen
Matthew Chen

Matthew Chen by Matthew Chen, 2017
Matthew Chen by Matthew Chen, 2017
Matthew Chen

The Archibald Prize was the first major prize for portraiture in Australian art, dating back to 1921. The Young Archie competition is held at the same time and considered a great achievement for young artists in Australia to win.

Yet little Matthew doesn’t entirely understand the gravity of the competition. To him, it's no more than an artistic way of expressing his love towards dad.

“I woulld say to my daddy, 'Happy Fathers Day!’ He is very hard-working and I’m gonna give him a really good present!”

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