Issue 6
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Charles Darwin University
Visual arts lecturer Henry Smith with the portrait of the NT Speaker
Visual arts lecturer Henry Smith with the portrait of the NT Speaker

Portrait prompts Speaker to pause for thought

By Patrick Nelson

A portrait by Charles Darwin University arts lecturer Henry Smith is going through the final stages of preparation before it goes on display in Parliament House in Darwin.

Mr Smith, who has taught visual arts at Alice Springs campus for the past 20 years, was commissioned last year to paint a formal portrait of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Kezia Purick.

“There was stunned silence for about a second,” Mr Smith said of the moment the oil painting was unveiled before Ms Purick, family members and colleagues in Darwin recently.

“I was very nervous, but they seemed to like it.”

Mr Smith said the work was now in the hands of the framers and that it was only a matter of weeks before it would be hung on the mezzanine floor of Parliament House, along with portraits of other Speakers.

“It was an exciting commission and quite a compliment to be invited to do it,” Mr Smith said.

“I wanted to reflect her personality, which I found to be warm and authoritative. She’s a straight shooter who says what she thinks.”

Mr Smith said he deliberated long and hard about various elements of the painting.

“Initially I had her sitting down, but that didn’t work. I thought a lot about the background; whether to include a book case, whether to include the window, whether she should be in robes.”

Mr Smith said it was a “challenging and involved process” that included two trips to Darwin, a photo shoot and some pencil sketches.

“The final work is based on a combination of three different photos.”

Mr Smith said the work was done with archival oil paints on a quality canvas that was custom made to dimensions that matched other portraits in the Speakers’ collection.