There’s nothing like a good yarn with a great local! We recently caught up with Northern Rivers artist Angus McDonald, whose stunning portrait of Kurdish-Iranian writer, poet, filmmaker and journalist Behrouz Boochani was not only a finalist in the 2020 Archibald Prize but also took out the coveted People’s Choice award.
The 2020 Archibald Prize is now on show at the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre as part of its Regional Tour of Australia, featuring Angus’s incredible work alongside other finalists and prize winners.
Angus shares with us the emotion and inspiration behind his 2020 Archibald Prize portrait of Behrouz as well as the many reasons he loves living in our beautiful part of the world.
Based in Lennox Head in northern NSW, Angus McDonald is an Ambassador for Human Rights Watch Australia and Asia and an award-winning artist and filmmaker. He’s a regular finalist in the Archibald Prize and took out the People’s Choice award for 2020. His 2019 documentary short, MANUS, has also won multiple awards and qualified for selection at the 2020 Academy Awards.
He is a passionate campaigner and advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, including Behrouz Boochani, who was held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for over six years, until he New Zealand government granted him refugee status in July 2020.
‘We first made contact in 2018, while I was creating a documentary about Manus. Boochani recited in Farsi a poem he wrote about the detention centre for the film’s closing sequence.”
“After Boochani arrived in New Zealand I visited him for five days as he sat for the portrait. I’ve depicted him directly engaging the viewer as a strong, confident and peaceful man who survived a brutal ordeal and is now free.”
After graduating with an Economics degree at the University of Sydney and studying painting in Sydney and Florence, exhibiting his work across Australia and internationally, Angus settled in Lennox Head in northern NSW, drawn by the natural beauty and diverse, creative community of the region.
The Tweed (TT) : How did you come to be living here in the Northern Rivers area and Lennox specifically?
Angus McDonald (AMcD): I’m originally from Sydney but travelled up here a lot in my twenties and loved it. After I finished Art School I moved overseas to Greece and Italy for 6 years. I lived on a small island in Greece and in a small town in Tuscany. Once I got back to Australia, I couldn’t face the city again so moved up here 20 years ago. I’ve lived in Lennox Head since 2003 and love the place.
TT: Your incredible Archibald Prize portrait of Behrouz Boochani is now on display at the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre – what do you love about this remarkable space?
AMcD: The Tweed Regional Gallery is a world class venue. Just imagine that up here in the Northern Rivers such an incredible art space with brilliant exhibitions from everywhere in the country would be so accessible to everyone in the region. The Gallery is in an idyllic setting and has large, beautiful exhibition spaces. For anyone who hasn’t been yet, make the time and visit. You’ll be knocked out!
TT: How do you like to spend your relaxation time when at home in the Northern Rivers?
AMcD: Mostly I’m at home in Lennox but we get around the whole area seeing friends, going to the beach and getting involved in everything that’s going on up here. I travel a lot but it’s such a great feeling getting home.
TT: There’s a rumour that the Tweed has more resident artists per capita than any other region in Australia – what do you think draws creative, passionate people to live in or visit here?
AMcD: I think it’s the beauty and the big spaces. Being up here is a great place to work creatively because you can lock yourself away easily to work but there’s plenty to do and so many other diverse creatives to connect with when you’re not working.
TT: When you have friends or family visiting what are the must-dos you recommend?
AMcD: There’s so many! You have to do the lighthouse walk at Wategos in Byron. Plan a trip to the Tweed Regional Gallery, it’s a beautiful drive from anywhere in the region! One of my favourite restaurants is Shelter in Lennox, great atmosphere right on the beach.
TT: Thanks so much Angus! Any final words?
AMcD: For all our visitors to the region, enjoy your stay!
The 2020 Archibald Prize Regional Tour is on now at the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah South.
Hurry – it finishes on 7 March and tickets can be purchased online now!