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Megan Roodenry’s subject is AFL player Ben Cousins. Banned from the AFL for a year in 2007 for various off-field indiscretions including recreational drug use, Richmond Football Club drafted him at the end of last year for the 2009 season.
“Prior to October 2007, I had never seen nor heard of Ben Cousins, never having followed football, or any sport for that matter,” says Roodenrys. “We were watching TV one day and saw the news footage of Ben being escorted by police from his car in broad daylight and commented on how it would feel to have your personal struggles dragged out in front of the public. And also, how so many ordinary people have found themselves in Ben’s position, while their struggle remains private. I have always had a great deal of respect for people who are trying to overcome addiction issues. I understand how difficult it is, and I felt that Ben’s road was particularly challenging since he is under such close scrutiny. From there, my business partner contacted Ben’s management and proposed the idea of Ben modelling for me. I feel privileged that he agreed.”
From the start, Roodenrys was interested in attempting to document a difficult time of self-examination, “perhaps in a hotel room, definitely alone. I wanted to represent a strong and purposeful man in a vulnerable, uncertain state, all his nerves exposed,” she says.
She flew to Perth in August 2008, where she had two sittings with Cousins. “Ben was a real pleasure to work with. He was at ease with his body and very respectful,” she says. “I left Perth for my studio in Adelaide, really wanting to produce something amazing for myself, for him and for anybody that has ever spent a sleepless night coming to terms with themselves and the difficult decisions they need to make.”
Born in Canberra in 1968, Roodenrys is a third-generation artist. Her grandmother Lorraine Holmes was awarded an OAM for her contribution to the arts in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the University of South Australia and has been awarded funding for a 2009 exhibition in New York City by the American-Australian Association of New York. This is her first time in the Archibald Prize.