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Richard Onn

Coupe SX010F
Oil on linen
152.5 x 336cm
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Senator Bob Brown is a member of the Australian Greens and a life-long activist who has fought tooth-and-nail to preserve Tasmania’s wilderness.

“As a kid my first images of Bob Brown were of him being hauled away by loggers in a 1987 anti-forestry protest,” says Richard Onn. “My perception of politicians as a school boy were that they only wore suits and sat behind a desk. This bloke was different. Thirty years on, Bob is still fighting for the future of the planet, human rights and equality.”

In his portrait, Onn set out to capture Brown’s resilience, determination and strength of spirit. The truck is a metaphor for power, money and greed. Brown is in its way, protecting the tree and halting the endless ambition for development. He has placed Brown in a pose reminiscent of Christ on the cross, signifying the ultimate sacrifice. The truck lights place his features under a microscope and accentuate the fatigue in his face.

The Weld Angel appears in the dawning light behind Brown’s shoulder. The name was given to anti-logging protestor Allana Beltran who dressed as an angel and sat silently on top of a five-metre log tripod that blocked access to a Forestry Tasmania tourist venture. “She symbolises the growing army of people who are against the logging of old growth forest in Tasmania,” says Onn.

The title of the portrait is the name of a logging coupe: a designated area earmarked for forestry operations. “Coupe SX010F was in the Styx Valley in Tasmania, home to the oldest and tallest flowering trees in the world. I have spent time in this valley and remain deeply moved by its majestic beauty. Bob worked hard to protect this coupe but it is now lost forever, having been logged. The area is scheduled to be burned later this year.”

Born in Hobart in 1972, Onn is currently studying part-time at the University of Tasmania, for a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He has exhibited in solo and group shows since 2002. He was Highly Commended in the 2008 Tasman Aged Portrait Prize and the 2005 and 2006 Daffodil Day Art Awards. This is his first time in the Archibald.