Myu­ran Suku­maran

When they came to bury Myu­ran Suku­maran in his home­town of Syd­ney, no one in the crowd of thou­sands was there to farewell an al­leged key fig­ure of the ‘Bali Nine’ heroin-smug­gling op­er­a­tion. Those gath­ered did so to pay trib­ute to the man Myu­ran had be­com

GQ (Australia) - - NEWS -

“We knew Myu liked to draw, and while Mum re­cently found some pho­tos of him paint­ing as a toddler, I don’t have any mem­o­ries of him be­ing at­tracted to art at a young age. He re­ally found it, found his love for art, in­side pri­son. Some­one told Myu art was some­thing he wouldn’t be able to do, or would be good at, that was what ini­tially drove him to pur­sue it – and from there he just wanted to get bet­ter, and bet­ter and bet­ter. He was al­ways some­one who wanted to bet­ter him­self and so he worked hard and ded­i­cated him­self to it, he didn’t want to waste his life. Myu com­pleted a fne arts de­gree at Curtin Univer­sity [West Aus­tralia] while in pri­son. And he was ex­tremely proud of that. It made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence dur­ing some of those dark days, dur­ing a time when the jus­tice sys­tem wasn’t giv­ing him any recog­ni­tion, so it was good to get some from out­side – that meant a huge deal to him.

A sup­porter who was help­ing out in the le­gal team was re­spon­si­ble for Ben Quilty con­nect­ing with Myu. My brother had asked if some­one could help him re­search how to paint ‘thick’ – they started look­ing into it and came across Ben. Ben then said he wanted to come to Bali to meet Myu – that was a big thing for my brother, he was so grate­ful to Ben for tak­ing an in­ter­est in him when most peo­ple wouldn’t have, or didn’t. And Ben re­ally taught him a great deal, he en­abled Myu to be­come a great artist be­cause he saw in him tal­ent and po­ten­tial. They started off as stu­dent and teacher, but soon be­came close friends. Ben saw who Myu re­ally was – the per­son our fam­ily and oth­ers close to him knew. Art was es­capism to my brother, it al­lowed him to leave where he was, men­tally, and it gave him pur­pose and iden­tity. It also meant he was recog­nised for some­thing else – that he was recog­nised by oth­ers be­yond what peo­ple thought he was, as there was so much writ­ten about him and he wasn’t that per­son. This was im­por­tant, he wanted Mum to be proud of him. There was a lot of hope in his art, and it was a big part of him be­ing able to main­tain that hope, which he did. It’s hard to say ex­actly what paint­ing gave him, but it was such a strong in­flu­ence and he fell com­pletely in love with it. Myu read every­thing he could on all the great artists, dif­fer­ent forms of art and ex­pres­sion – not just paint­ing. And art was a way to help him­self but also to help oth­ers – it did so much for him and he wanted oth­ers to feel that too, to come along this path with him. Myu never fully spoke about every­thing he did, though we’ve since learnt and it’s quite amaz­ing – so many peo­ple out there are liv­ing pos­i­tive, pro­duc­tive lives as a re­sult of what he cre­ated through his love of art, which drove him to build an art stu­dio, and he also set up T-shirt print­ing, a com­puter stu­dio and in­mates learnt mu­sic, de­sign, English, phi­los­o­phy – the list goes on. Peo­ple know bits and pieces about what else he did to help oth­ers while in pri­son, but no one’s aware of the scale of what he did. And some of those peo­ple have now achieved a great deal as a re­sult. He never spoke to me di­rectly about his specifc at­trac­tion to por­trai­ture, but when he started paint­ing he did say it helped him to look in­side and to see him­self, to see who he re­ally was, es­pe­cially with self-por­traits. Myu never thought of him­self as a bad per­son, de­spite many who didn’t know him think­ing this. His art is what we have – it’s his legacy and what he stood for, what he tried to do and what he was able to do and as a fam­ily we’re proud of what he achieved. We have a few pieces hang­ing at home and pic­tures of oth­ers. And we’re try­ing to get some more of his art back in the next month. I’m not sure what it will be like when all his works fnally ar­rive back, I know it will be very dif­fcult, but we’ll em­brace it and look on it with pos­i­tiv­ity. Ul­ti­mately, Myu com­mu­ni­cated from the dark­est places through his art – he spoke to the world through his paint­ings. This was es­pe­cially the case in the last few months and days, his way of ex­press­ing how he felt and just how cruel this process was.” n

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