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Robert Drewe

An interview with Nicholas Harding

Video: Robert Drew by Nicholas Harding (3 minutes)

Artist Nicholas Harding talks about what was captured in his portrait of Robert Drewe.

This video was produced with funds donated by Tim Fairfax AC.

This portrait was my third attempt. We initially met at The Pass, at Byron Bay. There was a moderately successful portrait that came out of that. But then I was annoyed about part of the face, and worked over it, and it collapsed in the process. And this time it was up in Byron, and there was a resort there that was closing down, and I was with a film crew and, so we used that.

I was still looking for the unguarded moment, it still hadn't appeared, not the one I was after. And there was a moment when we all took a break, and then he was coming back. He wasn't paying attention to anything that was going on, and there was just this look, on his face, and I didn't know where it came from, or what it was about, but I went "Oh, that's it", and it was interesting, because that's what turned up in the painting.

Later on, he said "You've caught my mood, and my state of mind, perfectly at that particular point". And I said 'Well what were you thinking about?" and he said "Oh, my marriage was breaking up, and I was just in this terrible place." You know, we all put on a face to weather the storm, if you like, which is what he was doing, and he just slipped, in that moment. So that was the raw moment that I was after. It kind of transforms as a painting, because the technical problem I'd had with the other two portraits was what to do with his figure. It just wasn't working.

And then I was out in the swell at Minnie Water, on a beautiful day, and I was observing other people in the water, the heads, and how it lit the head. And so that was the thing I wanted to bring to Rob's painting, in a way to soften the gaze I was after, but also to reflect the nature of the things he writes about. So that was the sort of thing I was trying to bring together into the portrait.