HMRI Art Series – a colourful inspiration

Jun 18 2020

Newcastle Artist Brett McMahon is renowned for his large scale paintings in somber hues of charcoal, silver and grey. They’re powerful and beautiful. So when his 2019 HMRI Art Series work, inspired by HMRI awardee for Research Excellence Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin was unveiled, there were gasps of surprise and delight.

This large-scale artwork, 1.9m x 1.9m, is a riot of red and gold with bold strokes across the surface of the canvas. It’s stunning.

With Professor Kay-Lambkin as a muse, a monochromatic colour scheme wasn’t going to cut it.

“I went in with the expectation of painting in my usual style,” Brett says. “But when I met Frances, I knew the colours had to be bold.”

HMRI 2019 awardee for Research Excellence, Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin has dedicated her career to delivering better solutions to mental health treatment programs. Through innovative and accessible technology, her work is changing lives. She’s dedicated to delivering better outcomes for people with mental health issues – no matter where they are. She’s busy, she’s passionate, and she’s productive.

“Frances and I met at her office, and what I took away from that conversation was the idea of a rhythm and the way the rhythm of one’s life affects how we experience it. Picking up on the energy and the passion that Frances has for her work and to translate it into a painting. I tried to make it clear and precise, with the whole idea of repetition and rhythm running through it.”

While this piece is different to anything Brett’s done recently, it does hark back to work he’d completed a number of years ago. It’s been nice to make something that’s alive, that’s full of energy.”

“I’m extremely humbled by this,” says Professor Kay-Lambkin of the work. “I loved hearing the story about how it came to be. I absolutely love it!”

The HMRI Art Series was launched in 2005 and has continued year-on-year with the generous support of Chris and Shirley Piggott, Classic Framing and Memorabilia and local Hunter artists. It’s the ultimate melding of art and science.

Each year HMRI awards the Award for Research Excellence to a researcher who’s made a world class impact with their research and mentorship of other researchers. An important part of this prize is the opportunity to work with a local artist who meld research with art.

The art work is traditionally unveiled to a live audience in the Caves Theatre at HMRI at our researcher showcase, and then auctioned at the annual HMRI Ball.

This year, because of COVID-19, things were different. The HMRI Researcher showcase was live-streamed via Facebook – with the researchers and artist socially-distancing in the room. The auction of the artwork will be different in 2020, with the cancellation of the HMRI Ball due to restrictions.

HMRI always rises to a challenge, and this is no different. This artwork will be auctioned to raise vital funds for HMRI’s life changing research, so stay tuned for details.