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Now 93, Tom Uren was a minister in the Whitlam and Hawke Labor governments and served as deputy leader of the party. A World War II veteran, he helped establish the heritage and conservation movement in Australia. In 2013, he was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
Many years ago, Mirra Whale’s mother invited Uren to talk to her primary school pupils about war, peace and forgiveness. ‘She spoke so fondly and highly of him that I wanted to paint him, so she offered to introduce us,’ says Whale.
‘We sat at his Balmain home, drank tea and told stories. As I was leaving, I asked Tom if there was anything I could do for him or bring for my next visit. He smiled, took my hand, and replied, “just take my warmth and joy with you”. Over the next few months, I visited Tom five or six times, trying to resolve how to portray this great man on canvas. I wanted my painting to speak of Tom’s strength and kindness. I wanted a quiet painting that contemplates his wisdom and captures a sense of darkness and light.’
Born in Sydney in 1979, Whale has a particular love of portraiture. She was a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Art Award in 2012 and 2013, a semi-finalist in the 2013 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, and was selected for the 2013 Salon des Refusés.