Lin Onus

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William McLintock Onus (Lin Onus AM) (4 December 1948 - 23 October 1996[1]) was a Scottish-Aboriginal Artist of Onus and was born at St. George's Hospital, Kew, Melbourne, Victoria to William Townsend Onus Sr, Yorta Yorta and Mary Kelly, of Scottish parentage. Lin Onus was educated in the 1950s and 1960s at Deepdene Primary School and Balwyn High School in Melbourne, Victoria.

Early life[edit]

Born William McLintock Onus,but known as Lin, his father was political activist and businessman, Bill Onus. Bill Onus became the founder of the Aboriginal Advancement League and the first Aboriginal JP, dying in 1968, a year after the fruits of a long campaign, the referendum giving Aborigines the right to vote.[2]

Onus was largely a self-taught urban artist who, after being expelled from Balwyn High School for fighting,[3] began as a motor mechanic before making artifacts for the tourist market with his father's business, Aboriginal Enterprise Novelties.[4]

Career[edit]

Onus became a successful painter, sculptor and maker of prints. His painting Barmah Forest won Canberra's national Aboriginal Heritage Award in 1994.[5]

The works of Onus often involve symbolism from Aboriginal styles of painting, along with recontextualisation of modern artistic elements. The images in his works include haunting portrayals of the Barmah red gum forests of his father's ancestral country, and the use of rarrk cross-hatching-based based painting style that he learned (and was given permission to use)[6] when visiting the Indigenous communities of Maningrida.

His most famous work, Michael and I are just slipping down to the pub for a minute, has been featured on a postcard, and is a reference to his colleague, artist Michael Eather. The painting is of a dingo riding on the back of a stingray which is meant to symbolise his mother's and father's cultures combining in reconciliation. The image of the wave is borrowed from The Great Wave of Kanagawa (1832), by Japanese printmaker, Katsushika Hokusai.

Honour[edit]

In 1993 Lin Onus received the award Member of the Order of Australia "for service to the arts as a painter and sculptor and to the promotion of aboriginal artists and their work."[7]

Death[edit]

Lin Onus had a heart attack and died at the age of 47. He was buried at the settlement of Cummeragunja on the NSW-Victorian border-line.

Posthumous apology[edit]

On 8 December 2000, as part of Aboriginal Reconciliation, Peter Bond, Principal of Balwyn High School, at the school presentation night at Dallas Brooks Hall, issued a posthumous apology to Lin Onus for being expelled from Balwyn High School in the early 1960s. ['School sorry, 40 years on', Herald Sun newspaper, page 8, Friday, December 8, 2000]

Major collections[edit]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The obituary page 1994-:The visual arts 1996". Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  2. ^ The Age article, "Into the Dreamtime", obituary by Adrien Newstead, 1996 [1]
  3. ^ [Neale, Margo, 2000, Urban Dingo, The Art and Life of Lin Onus, Queensland Art Gallery and fine Arts Press, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  4. ^ See entries on both son Lin and father William in the Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 1994
  5. ^ Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs, 'Onus, Lin', in McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art (4th edition), Aus Art Editions and The Miegunyah Press, MUP, 2006, p. 127
  6. ^ Amanda Ladds, 'The Reconciler', The Blurb, Issue 27
  7. ^ Australian Honours List 1993 | Retrieved 5 March 2013
  8. ^ "The Holmes à Court Collection". Holmes à Court Gallery. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Amanda Ladds, 'The Reconciler', The Blurb, Issue 27
  • Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Onus, L., Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 2001
  • Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs, 'Onus, Lin', in McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art (4th edition), Aus Art Editions and The Miegunyah Press, MUP, 2009
  • Mary Travers, 'Death of Lin Onus', Art Monthly Australia, no. 96, 1996, p. 43
  • Humphrey McQueen, 'Art Indigneous - Onus', retrieved July 2007
  • Louise Bellamy, 'Onus goes on show', The Age (newspaper), 23 February 2005.
  • Neale, Margo, 2000, 'Urban Dingo',The Art and Life of Lin Onus, Queensland Art Gallery and fine Arts Press, Sydney, NSW, Australia