Charles Darwin University
enews home

Oil painter captures Administrator’s joy for people

By Patrick Nelson

Dr Strangeways’ portrait of former Administrator of the Northern Territory Her Honour the Honourable Sally Thomas AC Dr Strangeways’ portrait of former Administrator of the Northern Territory Her Honour the Honourable Sally Thomas AC

Education lecturer and multi-award winning oil painter Dr Al Strangeways’ latest portrait will take pride of place in the Drawing Room at Government House.

The work was unveiled last week just as Her Honour the Honourable Sally Thomas AC completed her term as the Territory’s first female Administrator.

The work, which will be displayed with portraits of five other former Administrators, began with an hour-long sitting in Dr Strangeways’ studio near Alice Springs.

“I had clear parameters for the work, which was always to be a formal three-quarters portrait, but it was the sitting and the conversation we had during it that informed the final composition and direction of the work,” Dr Strangeways said.

“Her Honour spoke of her feelings of privilege and enjoyment in meeting such a diverse range of people during her term as Administrator, and in hearing their stories and passion for the contributions they were making.

“I wanted to capture in her expression a sense of pleasure in her role, and of interested attention to someone outside the frame of the image.”

Dr Strangeways, CDU’s Alice Springs-based Senior Lecturer in Education, said the oil-on-Belgian-linen work was her largest portrait and one that saw the beginning of an interest in the way hands, as well as faces, expressed character.

“So often we rely on facial expression, or stance and demeanor to convey a person’s character, but in this case I was interested in exploring how the hands, as a more subtly expressive element, can work to add other layers of meaning.” 

Dr Strangeways said she was flattered and deeply honoured when she was commissioned to undertake the portrait.