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Luke Roberts In mob we trust (Richard Bell)

acrylic on canvas

118 cm (diameter)

Luke Roberts’s subject is Richard Bell, an acclaimed, provocative artist and political activist, who came to prominence when he won the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Art Prize for his painting Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell’s Theorem) which featured the text, ‘Aboriginal art – it’s a white thing’.

‘Richard grew up in a tin shanty with his family in an Aboriginal encampment on the outskirts of Charleville in Queensland,’ says Roberts. ‘I remember those camps in the 1950s and 60s. His rise from such humble beginnings to his status as an internationally respected artist is a triumph of intelligence and hope over ignorance and exclusion. Richard is a leader not only as an artist, but as a social activist and spokesperson for his people and for a better, fairer Australia. My painting acknowledges his achievements.’

The format of the portrait refers to the fact that Bell ‘speaks of Aboriginal currency; about the Dreamtime tourism and Aboriginal art industries and the ongoing plight of his people and other Aboriginal nations in Australia,’ says Roberts.

Born in the rural town of Alpha in Queensland in 1952, Roberts studied at the Julian Ashton Art School and the Queensland College of Art. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Queensland University of Technology. His portrait of Bell is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW.