In an exhibition that sought to uncover the narratives of ethnic convicts in Australian colonial history I felt that it was important to include the figure of Ned Kelly. As the quintessential Australian outlaw, the inclusion of his portrait in this exhibition serves as a sort of anchor point from which his obscure contemproaries can be viewed in context. Conversely, the Irish were also seen as an ethnic minority during the late Colonial period and faced much social and economic discrimination.
In regards to the drawing itself, It was important for me to capture the eerie sense of life imprinted on Kelly’s death mask, almost as if he is only sleeping. In turn, I decided to approach the work with as much restraint as possible, knowing that a drawing that is overworked oftentimes gives an impression of a heavy ‘deadness’ rather than one that breathes. It’s always an ongoing battle for me – to hold the tension between the the fresh spontaneity of raw charcoal versus the velvety thickness of layers upon layers of rendered pigment. It’s a tricky balancing act to ensure a work is not “overworked” on one end and not “too thin” on the other. I am absolutely satisfied with my rendition of this drawing. I can look at the drawing for hours, trying to unpack the process and methodology of how it came about. I am happy to say that this is my most accomplished drawing to date.