Innovative portrait depicts departing VC in his everyday clothes

Published:05 December 2018

Professor Bowman describes elements of his portrait during the official unveiling this week.

An official portrait of CQUniversity’s departing Vice-Chancellor by Adelaide-based artist Deidre But-Husaim breaks tradition by depicting his everyday clothing, with his formal robes hanging on a hook.

This stunning new acquisition for the CQUniversity Art Collection is a fitting send-off for Professor Scott Bowman, who spent a decade as Vice-Chancellor and President of CQUniversity Australia.

The portrait was commissioned from Ms But-Husaim, who undertook her formative art study at the Adelaide Central School of Art, where she has since taught painting. Her work has featured in solo and group exhibitions in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.

She has also won a number of awards and been a finalist in many major awards including the Doug Moran Portrait Prize and the Archibald Prize. Her work is held in public and private collections throughout Australia, including the National Portrait Gallery.

Ms But-Husaim said that, although she only met Professor Bowman for a short time, “it was quite obvious what a respected and much-loved member of the University he is”.

“When painting the portrait, I wanted to portray not only Scott in his role as retiring VC but also as a person with far-reaching interests, both in his personal and public lives. I wanted to show his life as richly lived, past, present and future.”

Art Collection Manager Sue Smith says the portrait has an innovative composition that presents Professor Bowman in his office wearing everyday clothes and a favourite Indigenous-themed tie.

“His formal robes hang to the right, symbolising his retirement,” Ms Smith says.

Other items in the painting refer to Professor Bowman’s far-reaching public and private interests.

A basketball with a red cap refers to the University’s sponsorship of the CQUni Cairns Taipans and Professor Bowman’s role as ‘Santa’ at CQUniversity family Christmas parties.

Two sculptural ceramic pieces are by the VC himself, a keen potter, with a third piece by local artist Sue McBurnie, donated by the Nobb Creek Pottery, Byfield, acknowledging the University’s aid after the pottery was damaged by Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015.

Below from left, we see an elephant ornament (symbolising the fun and laughter aspects of Uni life), a ceramic of British icon, Sir Winston Churchill, a photograph of Professor Bowman with the single-engine Jabiru J230C he once piloted between CQUniversity campuses, and a photo of his wife, Associate Professor Anita Bowman, who has also worked at CQUniversity as the Head of Department for Medical and Imaging Sciences.

The globe signifies the Bowmans’ plans to travel extensively from May 2019.

Meanwhile, the blue strip at the top is a view of the night sky, referring to the VC’s favourite Jon Kudelka cartoon about universities: ‘Sure, we’re bottom feeders, but some of us are looking up at the stars’.