Artist, author and mother of four Rohsaan McInnes dreamt of entering the Archibald Prize for the best part of a decade, the catch was she didn’t know anyone famous.
Her brother Dr Haydn Allbutt promised one day it would be him and this year, thanks to his groundbreaking research on
Parkinson’s disease, that promise came true.
“The rules of the Archibald Prize state that the painting must be: ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics,” Rohsaan said.
“My brother always told me just to give him time and has come a long way in his work. He’s a scientist at the University of Sydney and is currently writing up his findings into what he believes in the cause of Parkinson’s disease.”
The Art Gallery of NSW’s Archibald Prize is Australia’s most coveted and prestigious art award for portrait painting, a who’s who of Australian culture from politicians to celebrities and sporting heroes to artists.
“I felt the time was right and chose my brother as the subject for my entry. The piece is titled: Come Fund Me – Portrait of Dr Haydn Allbutt, Parkinson’s Disease Researcher,” she said.
“In the portrait, the final pose shows Haydn holding up a conical flask filled with one of his specimens, as if showing it to the viewer. The title and the pose were specifically chosen to highlight the plight of the scientist.
“They are often anonymous, and are obliged to carry out the time-consuming task of preparing their own funding applications – just to keep their research going – which may one day lead to the cure for our diseases.”
From her Nan’s lounge in Highton drawing pictures and cartoons with her brother as a child, to her studio at home in Ocean Grove, Rohsaan said she’s always been an art lover.
“My brother, cousin and I were always at Nan’s because our mums worked. All three of us used to draw just for fun, cartoons and drawing games,” she said.
“When I was in high school they brought out the paint and I discovered I could really paint. I was really good at copying photographs. I would paint them onto canvas but anyone can get that done now.”
Rohsaan moved to Launceston and lived there for 13 years, she had four children and stopped painting until they got a little older.
“We moved back to Victoria five years ago and chose Ocean Grove. I was painting again and friends would see my works hanging around my home and ask to buy them,” she said.
“I started putting them in cafes and they’d sell immediately. I’m self-taught, I used to do Photorealism but then I decided to make them abstract, with emphasised brush strokes and colour.”
Rohsaan said her current style is heavily influenced by Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, who painted a realistic person surrounded by abstract patterns, gold and colours.
“I started going into that style. I haven’t actually had an exhibition before it’s always just been in cafes and through friends and commissions. I hang my works at home and friends ask if they can come and look around,” she said.
“My house is like a gallery, the plumber whose fixing our septic system asked if he could come in and look at all my paintings. I’ve given lots of people a tour.”
Earlier this month Rohsaan embarked on a road trip to the Art Gallery of NSW with her eldest son to deliver the piece personally.
“The courier was going to cost a lot and this way I can ensure it gets there on time and my son can get some driving hours under his belt,” she said.
“There’s a few tiers to the Archibald Prize, whatever happens now I’m grateful to have entered. If I make it onto one of the shortlists that tours Australia, that would be great.”
To see more of Rohsaan’s works go to Rohsaan McInnes art on Facebook or follow her on Instagram @rohsaan.