Euan Heng was born in Oban, Argyllshire, Scotland in 1945 and has lived in Australia since 1977. Between 1960 and 1970 the artist was employed in various occupations, including four years as a merchant seaman travelling worldwide. The artist gained diploma and post diploma qualifications from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Scotland and a MA (Research) from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Heng has exhibited extensively in Australia and abroad and his work is represented in public and university museum collections in all states of Australia and in Scotland including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow. He recently retired from his role as Associate Professor in Fine Art at Monash University, Melbourne. He held many prestigious and senior appointments during his academic career. Heng has participated in visiting artist/lectureships and residencies in Australia and overseas, including the Australia Council Residency at the British School in Rome in 1999 and a Royal Scottish Academy Residency in Scotland in 2010. In 2004 he received the Australian Council for University Art and Design Schools Distinguished Research Award.
As a poet and artist the significance and power of Robert Burns is such that my first thoughts in responding to his work was to avoid a literal or illustrative transcription of his work and most importantly – whatever image I eventually arrived at, the resulting print and its motif would mirror that of my current paintings in progress. As an immigrant separated from my homeland I initially toyed with the notion of exile, homesickness and return but this appeared to me as an obvious and superficial reading of certain poems and at worst take me down the cul-de-sac of nostalgia.
On reading, Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat? I was alerted to the fact that towards the end of his life Burns’ had been a private in the Royal Dumfries Volunteers and at his funeral in 1796 was buried with military ceremony. This poem was known as the song, “Dumfries Volunteers” and it added an urgent new dimension to my musings.
On a recent RSA studio residency in Newburgh, Scotland I found myself taking notice of war memorials, you know, solitary soldiers overlooking or standing guard in towns and village squares. At the time I had no idea why I was taking an interest in these monuments but they fuelled my thoughts and are now filed in an ‘archive’ for the future. Never the less, a similar melancholic sensibility is evident in the memorials for WW1 ‘diggers’ and the tree lined Avenues of Honor that grace the entrances to almost every Australian regional town and city. Also and serendipitously, I had come across a beautiful photograph of a young Scottish soldier, unnamed and an ex pupil of Dundee’s Harris Academy who had been killed in the Great War and by ‘quotation’ his image resulted in the motif that would become the lithograph titled Volunteer. Upon reduction and simplification I emptied out facial features and detail leaving only the bonnet to signify his nationality. This motif was then overlaid upon the Black Watch tartan now reduced to a transparent monochrome in my endeavor to engage thought of all those memories now evaporating. Euan Heng
lithograph (2 colours)
Burns Unbroke Visual Artists
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