B. 1948 – 1996.
Lin Onus, a Yorta Yorta artist of Aboriginal and Scottish descent, represents a singular voice in Australian art. A sculptor, printmaker, painter and activist, his work negotiates the duality of his cultural identity, employing both Aboriginal and Western techniques. Always present however, is biting wit, beauty and ironic sense of whimsy.
After being expelled from school at age fourteen on racist grounds, Onus worked as a mechanic and activist before teaching himself to draw. He forged a style that combined photo-realism, surrealism and indigenous iconography. As the son of a member of the Communist Party and Bill Onus, a leading figure in the Aboriginal rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Onus embraced the political.
In 1986, he became friends with late Djinang artist Djiwul ‘Jack’ Wunuwun and other Arnhem Land artists. For Onus, the landscape was an archive and he is its visual historian. Giving image to the experience of dislocation, his work is centred around reconciliation over segregation.
A pioneer of the Urban Aboriginal art movement, Onus was the chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board of Australia Council, a founding member of the artist’s copyright agency Viscopy and in 1996, was celebrated with a major retrospective called ‘Urban Dingo’. In 1990, he wrote that he hoped to be remembered as a “bridge between cultures, technology and ideas”. With representation in most major Australian collections and an OBE, it is undoubtable that he has.
To read a more in-depth biography of the artist, click here.