Sisters stop by
When sisters Fiona and Estelle Parker posed for artist Juan Ford in 2002, they expected to see their likeness on display at their parents’ home for years to come.
While that was true for some time, last year their parents Bill and Irene donated the painting to Benalla Art Gallery.
It is now on public display for the first time as part of the ReGathering exhibition, which opened on April 23.
During the weekend the whole Parker family set off from across the state to take a look.
“The painting now forms part of the Benalla Art Gallery collection and I believe it is their first Juan Ford,” Fiona said.
“We were thrilled to know it would be on the walls of a gallery.
“We’ve seen it for so many years in our parents’ lounge, but I think it suits a gallery space much more.
“Seeing it in the gallery recontextualised the painting for us.
“At my parents; house you couldn’t really stand back and look, whereas in the gallery you can see it from further away.
“And I think with a lot of Juan Ford works they do look better when you can stand back a bit.
“It was also great to see it with all these other amazing Australian artists’ work represented in the same exhibition.
“My parents were absolutely thrilled to see it, too.”
Bill and Irene commissioned the painting in the early 2000s after seeing some of Juan’s work and being particularly impressed with his use of oil on aluminium.
“I actually knew Juan Ford in the late ’90s, before he became a well-known artist,” Fiona said.
“Dad wanted to commission a painting of his daughters and liked the idea of oil on aluminium.
“Juan had painted me a couple of times and had painted lots of his friends as portraits.
“When Dad saw those he decided Juan was the right choice to paint me and my sister.”
Once the Parkers had approached Juan they were asked to give him some photos of the sisters.
“Juan works from photos, so we didn’t actually have to sit for the painting,” Fiona said.
“Once Juan had the photos he also spoke to my dad a lot about the family history, where we lived and things like that.
“Then in 2002 it was finalised and went up on the lounge wall.”
Last year when Bill and Irene were downsizing it became apparent that the painting would be too big for their new home.
“They could have sold it at that point,” Fiona said.
“But my dad really wanted to share it with the community and have others enjoy it.
“He wanted to give something back to a regional galleries as he and mum often visit them, including Benalla, whenever they drive up to Sydney.
“He considers himself a philanthropist now, I don’t know if he can claim that after only giving one painting, but why not.”