I had several circulating ideas in this painting. I was reflecting on my family. I wanted to use a panel made by my grandfather and I wanted to do a portrait of my nephew, Liam. The panel predates Liam by over 70 years so I'll start there.
The panel is from a pulpit made made around 100 years ago by my great grandfather and grandfather ( both called William Ansell) for the old South Perth Methodist church. When a more modern Church building was built next door in the 1950's, they made a new pulpit and my granddad salvaged the old one and stored it in his shed. The family tradition of never wasting a good piece of timber was already well established. Later, my Dad stored it in his
shed and after Dad died, it ended up in my shed via my brother's shed. It seemed time to use this well aged piece of jarrah before someone broke with tradition and threw it out.
The panel's shape lent itself beautifully to a portrait and I asked Liam to be the subject. He shares his great Grandfather’s name and likeness and he is the eldest of his generation. Importantly he also highlights how families change. His life differs markedly from our forefathers. He’s made choices previous generations could not have imagined. He is a successful actor, gay, and a father. He lives in a time of increasing choice and acceptance. Our family has changed hugely in a few generations. We are now multi-ethnic, and include a range of beliefs and lifestyles. Society changes, Families change, ideas reform.
This panel still shows its origins, but is no longer attached to the original frame. It is still a lovely piece of curly grain jarrah and has a new life.
I’d like to thank Liam for lending his excellent face to this project and letting me add a fictitious neck tattoo to make the portrait look more contemporary and less Saint-like.
Liam is wonderful, but not a saint.
I also thank four generations of my family for storing the wood in case it came in useful one day.
My Grandfather William Ansell (Bill) in the early 1920's. Photo likely taken in Vic Park by his sister Ethel.