Archibald Prize winning artist Craig Ruddy dies at his home at The Pocket

Craig Ruddy in his studio. Photo: Marc Stapelberg
Craig Ruddy in his studio. Photo: Marc Stapelberg

A few short months ago the Northern Rivers Review ran a story honouring the inspiring love shared by iconic local artist Craig Ruddy and his partner Roberto Meza Mont. Today we write of Craig's sudden death in the arms of his love.

The 53-year old died peacefully at his hinterland property at The Pocket, on Tuesday January 4, after a three week battle with Covid. The internationally acclaimed artist whose themes centred on Indigenous culture, had pre-existing lung issues from childhood.

"Craig is the love of my life. From our first kiss to his last breath, I will be forever grateful to share life with this divine human who gave so much to our communities. I will carry him in my heart forever more," said Roberto, his partner of 20 years.

In the recent profile in this publication, Craig said: "If it wasn't for Roberto, I would probably be on my own in a little cabin in the wilderness, distant from humanity.

"I'm more of an introvert, Roberto's an extrovert. I need my quiet time and Roberto thrives on being surrounded by people . We are so different but it just works."

Craig and his soul mate Roberto. Photo: Marc Stapelberg

Craig and his soul mate Roberto. Photo: Marc Stapelberg

The contemporary artist's story is well documented, "As a child I had a rare lung condition where my lungs would haemorrhage, leaving me anaemic and short of breath. It slowed me down and put me into a strange euphoric state. As a result I learnt to sit and observe.''

It's a trait this gentle man carried through his life, an ability to capture the subtlety most of us miss.

Renowned for his community input, zest for life and hospitality, the harmony and respect this couple shared over a 20-year partnership was inspiring.

Craig's iconic portraits of Bruce Pascoe and David Gulpilil adorn the walls of their living room, a daily reminder of his compassion for the indigenous plight. Recognition of Australian Indigenous culture was a strong driver for the self confessed empath. His Gulpilil piece is acclaimed as profoundly important for our nation, with its timely message of Indigenous recognition and reconciliation.

Craig's portrait of David Gulpilil

Craig's portrait of David Gulpilil

"One thing we shared that made our relationship work is a disdain for status, money and ego," says Roberto. "Our core values centre around kindness - soul, spirit , connection. This is how I chose to remember the time we shared."

"To me it is not about having your name plastered in newspapers or millions in the bank. Happiness is not external."

For this much loved Northern Rivers powerhouse couple, the life they wove together over two decades, reflected the masterful art that won Craig much acclaim.

"Finding balance and harmony in the differences is part of any great composition." Photo: Marc Stapelberg

"Finding balance and harmony in the differences is part of any great composition." Photo: Marc Stapelberg

Like all the best love stories, it was crafted with depth, passion, creativity and an eye for detail.

"There are similarities in how I create in both art and life" mused Craig, who won the coveted Archibald prize in 2004 for his striking David Gulpilil portrait "Two Worlds".

"Finding balance and harmony in the differences is part of any great composition."

Humble, famous, globetrotting, heart dwelling nature lover.

A gifted magic man, who could create balance in the contrasts.

A special man who treated every day as a piece of art.

RIP Craig. You will be sorely missed.