Portrait of Olympian purchased by Canberra Airport

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A COLOURFUL portrait of champion snowboarder and Australia’s most successful female winter Olympian, Torah Bright, has been purchased by Canberra airport for an undisclosed price.

Torah Bright by Zoe Young
Torah Bright by Zoe Young

“Canberra Airport is the gateway to the snow fields,” the happy managing director at the  airport, Stephen Byron, said today as he introduced media to their newest acquisition.

The portrait was entered into the 2014 Archibald Prize but artist Zoë Young, it was announced yesterday by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, has also been shortlisted in the Archibald Prize 2016 for her portrait of Indigenous model Samantha Harris.

On hand at the airport this morning by no coincidence was Canberra model Anneliese Seubert, who had introduced Young to Harris.

The unusual portrait of Torah Bright, executed in acrylic and rosewater on ply and showing the  champion looking down in a  reflective moment,  involved quite a bit of research, Young told “CityNews”. This was because the requirement for the Archibald is not just for an outstanding painting but for a painting for a subject “‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics.”

Young at the airport this morning
Young at the airport this morning

“I caught Torah in an introspective moment, a calm silence after the chaos of recent months, somewhere between the guts and the glory and her private and public lives,” Young has said.

Getting inside Bright had been a serious undertaking. “You don’t get to where she got without a deep sense of faith—would you jump off some of the places she does?” she asked.

Young, who now lives and practices her art in Bowral  and from her  studio at Sturt  in Mittagong, said she has grown up with the Bright family in the snowfields and had been  introduced to ski racing by Bright’s sister Rowena.

At the National Art School in Sydney Young studied design and traditional drawing and was torn  between becoming a milliner, an illustrator, a painter or a sculptor. “Now I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m  a painter,” she said.

Asked about the unusual colour highlights in the portrait, Young said, “I’ve moved from the style of painting now, but what I wanted at the time was to capture a sense of excitement.”

The painting, Byron said, paid tribute to “a real icon of this region, one he said was justly claimed by Cooma but relevant to Canberra too.

The painting  will remain hanging in the Departure Lounge at Canberra Airport until further notice.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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