|Artist Ben Quilty surrounded by works painted by Myuran Sukumaran.|
With 24 hours left before he faced death by firing squad, Myuran Sukumaran could have been forgiven for wallowing in self-pity and regret. Yet Sukumaran, one of nine Australians arrested for heroin smuggling in 2005, spent his last day of life on the Indonesian island of Nusa Kambangan wielding a paint brush.
His friend and mentor, the Archibald Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty, says Sukumaran was determined to leave an artistic legacy and take a stand against the death penalty.
"The last day on the 28th of April, 2015, Myuran made four or five paintings," Quilty says. "And he was up all night, as much as he could, with his family around him, supporting him, bringing him food. And he just painted and painted and painted till the end."
The artworks painted by Sukumaran the day before he was executed last year will be exhibited at Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival.
Myuran Sukumaran: Another Day in Paradise features more than 100 death-row paintings by Sukumaran as well as works created by seven artists in response to his execution.
One of the new works by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah features a dove nesting inside a circle of 3665 eggs, representing each day of the more than 10 years Sukumaran was imprisoned until his execution in 2015.
Sukumaran was a prolific painter during his incarceration in Bali's Kerobokan jail and on Nusa Kambangan. He painted portraits of himself and friends inside prison as well as his family including a series of pictures of his grandfather on his death bed in Liverpool Hospital.
"By that point in Myuran's prison life, he was very well-respected and trusted inside the prison and they allowed him to have a Skype for several days with his grandfather," Quilty says.
It is one example of Sukumaran's dramatic transformation from heroin smuggler to model prisoner who was entrusted to run language and art classes for inmates and even have keys to the jail's medical facility, Quilty says.
The exhibition dwells on Sukumaran's rehabilitation as well as the death penalty and treatment of prisoners in Australia, according to co-curator Michael Dagostino. "The whole idea of rehabilitation and redemption doesn't really figure in our justice system."
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Source: Canberra Times, Andrew Taylor, october 26, 2016
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