How to capture a life well lived

Kaye Le Vannais and Nigel Gould. (Damjan Janevski) 265147_01

By Oliver Lees

In a studio in Mt Macedon, portrait artist Kay Le Vannais has been working to depict mental health advocate Nigel Gould, in what will be her second entry into the prestigious Archibald Prize.

But the task is not as straightforward as simply painting Mr Gould’s likeness, as Ms Le Vannais explains, part of the challenge of portraiture is creating reference to the subject’s character and life experience.

And for someone like Nigel Gould, that is no easy feat.

“When he asked me to do this painting, I was a bit hesitant,” she said.

“I thought, how am I going to portray all of this?”

A long time Mining and Energy Union member, Mr Gould has been a vocal advocate for mental health within the sector and has worked in mines in Western Australia.

His heavy involvement in the union pushed him to run for the federal seat of Mitchell as a Labor candidate in 2010.

Mr Gould said he had the idea for the portrait to help raise funds for the organisations such as the Royal Flying Doctors Service, the Black Dog Institute and R U OK?.

“My motto is: it’s OK not to be OK, but it’s also OK to get help,” he said.

“I guess the point is that I’m just an old truck driver. If this old boy can do it, anyone can do it.”

With just some final touches left to go before the portrait is complete, Le Vannais said she’s gotten into the swing of the project, and has come to enjoy the task of representing Nigel Gould on canvas.

“As I got going, things just started to unfold,” she said,

“I’ve gotten all excited about it and can see it all falling into place.”

Once completed, Mr Gould will personally drive the portrait to Sydney for it to be judged.

He said win or lose, he hopes to tour the painting around the country to raise money for mental health awareness.

“It’s been very enjoyable, Kay’s putting a story in there, and once they see it, I think they’re going to be amazed,” he said.

“I’ve been blessed to live this incredible life.”

The portrait can also be voted for in the People’s Choice category.