HUNTER artist Megan Adams remembers the event as much more than a concert, but an insight into a musician's family life "that took my breath away".
It also inspired her latest Archibald Prize entry.
Adams, raised in Maitland and now residing in Lambton, was living in Darwin when she saw Aboriginal singer-songwriter Gawurra perform.
"It was the most moving experience," Adams said.
"His music inspired me for starters, but he had been away from home working on his music career and hadn't seen members of his family for a long while.
"They turned up at the concert and called out to him from the audience and it obviously meant so much to him ... in between songs he would talk to them and it was bringing him to tears.
"It was so personal ... so incredibly moving."
Afterwards Adams, 32, went backstage and asked if he would be her next painting subject.
She was inspired to take her art in a new direction. Her previous Archibald entries - of former AFL player Adam Goodes and NRL coach Wayne Bennett AM - have incorporated bold colours, but Gawurra is a far more moody work.
"I've painted him in blue, with his face flowing into clouds ... it's certainly different to anything I've done before," she said.
"I like the fact that there are layers to this painting. The blue represent sadness that he's away from home, the clouds suggesting that while he might be away, his mind is still on home and family. I've added a sunset over the ocean at Milingimbi Island where Gawurra was born as well."
She said she was proud of the final result.
"With any portrait you're trying to capture the character, to do your subject justice. I found Gawurra such an interesting, layered person, that it meant I really wanted the painting to work out well.
"He's so well spoken and has achieved so much from a small beginning."
Gawurra has won the Northern Territory Song of the Year's pop category and four NIMA Awards plus received an ARIA nomination.
Adams said it had been a gamble to move in such a different direction.
"But I'm no Ben Quilty," she said. "I'm still developing as an artist and to some extent I can do what I want.
"For better known artists - like Ben Quilty, for example - they would be risking so much more if they suddenly went off in a new direction and risked alienating their fanbase."
Adams will enter her work in the Archibald Prize on April 1.
Finalists are announced on April 30 and the winner on May 8.
She has listed it on her website for $10,000, with 10 per cent of the proceeds going towards GO Foundation, which provides scholarships to Indigenous students.
Prints of the image are available.
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