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Barnesy portrait wins Packing Room Prize

Jimmy Barnes.jpg

Entertainer Jimmy Barnes poses with the Packing Room Prize winning portrait at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Thursday, May 3, 2018. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas).

A portrait capturing Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes's "inner demons" by artist Jamie Preisz has won the coveted Packing Room Prize at the 2018 Archibald exhibition.

Head packer Brett Cuthbertson announced the winning entry in Sydney on Thursday.

"It was the only contender the whole way through," Mr Cuthbertson said before revealing his first-ever pick.

Mr Cuthbertson, who replaced 35-year veteran head packer Steve Peters after last year's exhibition, later told AAP the portrait "shows the hard years behind the eyes".

"But he's still fighting - and that's what I liked about it," he said.

Barnes admits his "hyperactive" nature made it tough for the 28-year-old artist to nail him down for a sitting. But the Cold Chisel frontman was confident he was in safe hands.

"I sat with him and literally within half an hour I knew that he captured something really special," Barnes told reporters on Thursday.

"I walked away knowing with full confidence that he was going to capture something more than just a portrait."

The artist says Barnes's pose - strapping his hands with tape - was partly inspired by the singer's father who was a Scottish boxer. Preisz also drew on his experience of watching Barnes perform.

"If you've ever seen Jimmy before a show it looks like he's preparing for a fight," the 28-year-old told AAP.

The artist revealed on Thursday he tragically lost his little sister to suicide in December. He said he was moved by Barnes's public acknowledgement of his own mental health issues.

"We all struggle with our own demons and those demons take different shapes - I seem to have had quite a few," Barnes told reporters.

"One of the big things in Australian society is that people don't talk about problems - particularly men - and as a result of that there's a lot of men committing suicide.

"My message ... has been about trying to get people to talk."

After one short sitting with Barnes, Preisz painted his "good friend" from 7am until 11pm for nine weeks.

"This win means more to me than anything in the world and to see my mum over there so happy, and I know Bella (his sister) would be so proud, so it's a huge deal for me," Preisz said.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

© AAP 2018