An extraordinary showcase of 10 Australians’ last memories of their sight—LAST SEEN opens in Brisbane next month
LAST SEEN–an extraordinary showcase of 10 Australians’ LAST MEMORIES OF THEIR SIGHT—opens April 18 in Brisbane
Last Seen is an exhibition and performance in Brisbane, which presents 10 Australians’ ‘last memories of sight’ captured on canvas and in composition by a collaboration of talented artists and composers. It is presented by the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation and Griffith University, it is an extraordinary and emotional multi-sensory showcase.
Last Seen run from 18 – 29 April
At the Queensland College of Art Grey Street Gallery
(226 Grey Street), 10am – 4pm; entry is free.
Tickets to the concert at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University on the 21st of April, can be purchased from lastseen.com.au
BELOW are summaries of each of the 10, and their stories…..
Treasured memories eternalised on canvas and in music
Katie Kelly OAM PLY x artist Tracie Eaton x composer Steve Newcomb
This April, a gold-medal decorated athlete, a celebrated Gold Coast artist, and a golden boy of jazz unite to create a treasured artwork and immersive experience that will shine a light on preventable eye-related disease.
Acclaimed Gold Coast artist, Tracie Eaton has used her unique style and boundless creativity to paint the last-visual memory of one of Australia’s most distinguished Para-triathletes, Katie Kelly OAM PLY’s who is vision impaired. Katie’s cherished last-visual memory is of Newcastle’s iconic Merewether Baths.
Kelly’s last visual memory has also been interpreted by Brisbane-based composer and pianist Steve Newcomb.
Katie is a powerhouse. She was born with profound hearing loss, into a family of athletes in Casino, NSW. Specialists did not diagnose her full condition Usher Syndrome until, at age 22, she started to lose her sight. She completed a Bachelor of Sports Management from Griffith University and in 2015, just weeks after she was diagnosed as legally blind, she made her international debut in Para-triathlon—the International Triathlon Union. Together with her sighted guide, Olympic silver medallist Michelle Jones, Katie won a gold medal, then won Australia’s first Paralympic medal in the sport at the Rio 2016 games. Further successes and Katie’s incredible winning streak have credited her with being one of Australia’s most distinguished Para-triathletes. Now, Founder and Director of Australian charity, Sport Access Foundation, Katie has helped provide grants for young Australians living with a disability playing sport.
Katie remembers a day at the Merewether Baths fondly, the salt on her skin, the warmth of the sun on her back and the waves that would flow over into the pool. A deep sensory response is evoked by those who view Tracie’s work.
Artist Tracie Eaton meets Katie’s energy perfectly. She was titled ‘Artist to the Stars’ after an exclusive three-year commission to create bespoke artwork for Oscar nominees and winners such as Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins and Charlize.
Composer Steve Newcomb is Senior Lecturer and Head of Jazz at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, and will debut his original and inspirational score, embodying crashing waves and the calmness of the sea through jazz and new music. He has written for Ben Folds, Augie March, and The Panics in the pop world, to symphony orchestras and also leads his own ensemble, the Steve Newcomb Orchestra.
War orphan’s last scene at last – seen
David Truong x artist Dylan Jones x composer John Rotar
Brisbane’s Dylan Jones is a unique combination of tradie and artist. His latest work is very special – he has expertly captured the last vivid memory of Vietnam war orphan David Truong before he completely lost his sight. And innovative Brisbane composer, John Rotar has created music around this experience. This is what the immersive experience LAST SEEN is all about.
David is blind and has no strong memory of ever having sight, which deteriorated through (thought to be) malnutrition. To accompany the visuals of the art and to paint David’s story in a way the vision-impaired can also feel it, is music from emerging, innovative Brisbane composer, John Rotar.
A fascinating subject, David Truong has persevered through what life has thrown at him. Previously a professional Australia representative in the 1986 and 2006 goalball World Championships and a vision impaired cricket player; David is today a singer, songwriter, pianist, and keyboard player. His enthusiasm for music developed whilst growing up in various foster homes and institutions. He has created two albums under his stage name Ambition Road, which is available on iTunes, Spotify and other major platforms. David’s earliest memories are of the smells and tastes of Australia, as he journeyed from Vietnam to call Australia home. These are the memories which have been captured on canvas by ‘en plein air‘ artist, Jones.
Like David, Composer John Rotar has had a passion for music from an early age He played piano at 6 and began composing at 9, and at 12 had his first orchestral work performed by the Bundaberg Youth Orchestra. John has had more than 115 works commissioned, recorded, or performed and is the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Australian Voices as well as the organist at the historic All Saints Church.
TEDx speaker Santiago Velasquez’s LAST SEEN memory now on canvas, and in music
Santiago Velasquez x Artist Kathleen O’Hagan x composer Dr Catherine Likhuta
Santiago Velasquez was always encouraged by his parents that he could achieve anything, despite being born with vision impairment. To give their son the best opportunities, Santiago’s parents left their home country of Colombia (where they believed opportunities for people with vision impairment were limited), and moved to Australia.
With such tremendous support from his parents, and despite only retaining 1-2% vision in his right eye Santiago went on to study Engineering at Queensland University, setting precedents as the first vision impaired student in Australia enrolled in electrical engineering. Santiago is one of ten Australians’ whose ‘last memories of sight’ have been portrayed through paintings by a collaboration of talented artists at 2023 Last Seen. Shining a light on preventable eye-related disease, Last Seen is the most extraordinary and emotional multi-sensory exhibition, presented by Griffith University. The art works are then presented in concert alongside original music by gifted composers.
Emerging artist, Kathleen O’Hagan has been chosen to depict on canvas, Santiago’s last seen memory – which was at age of nine, cycling with friends around his Colombian apartment complex. Kathleen’s work has previously been exhibited at GOMA; she staged her first two solo exhibitions in 2022 at Land Street Gallery, and POP Gallery and currently works as a Sessional Art Theory tutor at the QCA. Kathleen beautifully portrays Santiago’s last seen memory of his blue bike and his complex’s deep red bricks and green vegetation. Her art wonderfully evokes the sounds of his friends’ laughter and the carefree feeling of Santiago riding a bike by himself (today Santiago uses a tandem bike). Australian-based pianist, composer and recording artist, Dr Catherine Likhuta, creates music of high emotional charge and rhythmic complexity. Catherine holds a five-year post-graduate degree in composition from the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine (Kyiv Conservatory) and a PhD in composition from the University of Queensland. Her pieces have been played extensively around the world and she has brought Santiago’s memory to life through music.
Santiago is today a TEDx speaker, UN panellist and Founder and CEO of EyeSyght and Hailos, technology companies focussed on addressing accessibility.
Lorin Nicholson OAM’s LAST SEEN memory now on canvas – with a self-composed world premiere piece of music to accompany!
Lorin Nicholson OAM x artist Robert Brownhall x composer Lorin Nicholson OAM
At just four years old, doctors diagnosed Lorin Nicholson OAM with a genetic eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and with only 10 per cent sight, he was declared legally blind. Yet despite such a huge challenge, his incredible inner strength, resilience, and determination shone through – he’s now a Motivational Speaker, sharing his knowledge and experience with audiences around the world.
Lorin is one of 10 Australians’ whose ‘last memories of sight’ have been portrayed through paintings by a collaboration of talented artists at 2023 Last Seen. Shining a light on preventable eye-related disease, Last Seen is the most extraordinary and emotional multi-sensory exhibition, presented by Griffith University. The art works are then presented in concert alongside original music by gifted composers. Lorin was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2021. This was just the tip of the iceberg in a long-list of achievements – he was the first blind persons to ride more than 4100 kilometres (2575 miles) across Australia in a four-week journey from Perth to Sydney, with his younger brother Dean in 2010. Cycling has always been a big part of Lorin’s life.
In fact, his last strong visual memory (portrayed through paint by removed Realist Painter, Robert Brownhall, is that of riding from Tamworth to Port Macquarie, on his own, at just 16 years of age. Brownhall uses his unique, quirky style and birds-eye view of scenes to recreate Lorin’s memory on canvas. Robert’s art is characterised by a strong connection to place, moody nocturnes, broad sweep panoramas and gritty vignettes of urban life.
In a unique show of incredible talent, Lorin has composed the piece of music to accompany the artwork, and be performed at the concert. Because ….. he’s also a successful independent recording and performing artist, with five albums to his credit, a golden guitar nomination, and three Frater awards for excellence in the touring performance program. His skills as a guitarist have earned him many prestige endorsements, as well as hundreds of newspaper, radio and television interviews.
Expo ’88 construction site LAST SEEN memory now on canvas and in music
Alan Nemeth x artist Michael Connelly x composer Lisa Cheney
Alan Nemeth loves the smell and sounds of construction. In fact, Alan’s last, strong visual memory is of a construction site for Brisbane’s Expo 88, when he was just a teenager. Alan was born with glaucoma, a stigmatism and cataracts, and has never been able to see clearly. Now, thanks to artist Michael Connolly and Composer Lisa Cheney, Alan’s favourite memory will be immortalised.
Proud Butchulla man from K’gari (Fraser Island), Alan has less than 2% vision in his right eye. He relies on his Seeing Eye Dog Ollie and his electronic assistant, Siri. When asked about his vision loss, Alan says as a young man there was a stigma attached to having a vision impairment; and opportunities for him, and people like him, were few and far between. It’s only since reaching adulthood Alan has truly embraced his vision loss. He enjoys doing woodwork and woodturning twice a week, donating the bowls he creates. Fellow Aboriginal craftsman and artist, Michael Connolly is a Charleville local and descendant of the Kullilla Tribe from the Thargomindah and Eulo region on his Father’s side and from the Muruwari People from Goodooga and Brewarrina region of north-west New South Wales on his Mother’s side. He has been tasked with painting Alan’s last visual memory. As a man passionate about promoting and raising awareness of Aboriginal culture, Michael is a fitting choice to pair with Alan. Working alongside his wife, Michael is Director and Owner of Dreamtime Kullilla-Art gallery and shop on the Redcliffe Peninsula.
Hailing from Queensland and now living in Melbourne, Lisa Cheney has created a musical score to accompany Michael’s work of art. Lisa’s body of work incorporates orchestra, chamber, voice, acousmatic collaborations, arrangements and works for theatre and ballet. Cheney’s work has been described as ‘atmospheres of unfathomable spaciousness’ (Partial Durations), ‘melodic slivers with plaintive intensity’ (The Australian) and ‘fantastic and frightening in its detail and colour’ (Resonate).
Last Seen memory of colour red immortalised by artist, and emerging composer
Eleanor Lee (née Mills) x artist Naomi White x composer Hudson Beck
Brisk winter mornings, and fields of vibrant orange, yellow and red tulips have been captured by award-winning Australian landscape artist, Naomi White in her recent artwork, created for the 2023 Last Seen Exhibition. The visions painted are the last visual memories of Tech Developer, Eleanor Lee (née Mills) before she lost her sight at 11. Eleanor was diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), she has 1% or 2% vision depending on the day and is legally blind. Eleanor uses a mix of her memory, voice assistants, magnifiers and screen readers in her daily life. As a result of her eye condition, Eleanor developed an interest in genetics and computing. She is now a Senior Developer at Brisbane-based tech company, TalkVia, and is involved with the development of the voice-activated guide technology, being showcased in the Last Seen 2023 exhibition.
Eleanor has shared with both artist Naomi, and third-year composer, Hudson Beck, her last strong memory of sight – travelling with her parents to the National Museum of Australia, the art gallery, and Floriade, and the flower and entertainment festival. Viewing the vibrant tulips at the flower festival, is Eleanor’s last recollection of being able to see the colour red.
Hudson Beck, has been inspired by Eleanor’s memories, to create a moving musical tribute. Hudson started his studies in 2019, and has since composed more than 20 original pieces for a variety of ensembles including string quartet, big band, and symphony orchestra. His career as a composer was cemented by winning the Queensland Music Festival’s composition competition three years in a row from 2016-2018.
Vision impaired sport star’s grand adventure immortalised on canvas and music
Oliver Fanshawe x artist Gary Myer x composer Paul Jarman
Australian composer, performer, musical director, conductor and educator, Paul Jarman, has written more than 170 commissioned choral works and has contributed to another 100 school and town anthems. Now he is creating an original score for the 2023 Last Seen Exhibition, bringing to life the emotion and experience of vision-impaired Oliver Fanshawe’s most memorable last seen image.
Shining a light on preventable eye-related disease, 2023 Last Seen is the most extraordinary and emotional multi-sensory exhibition, presented by Griffith University. 10 Australians’ ‘last memories of sight’ have been portrayed through paintings by a collaboration of talented artists. The art works are then presented in concert alongside original music by gifted composers. Oliver was diagnosed with the eye condition Peters Anomaly at just nine days old. While he underwent a corneal graft surgery, doctors were not able to save his right eye. Oliver had clouding of the left eye until he was six months old, after which some low vision slowly returned. At 14, Oliver was the youngest person in Australia to receive a Seeing Eye Dog, Sadie—ourtesy of Vision Australia. Today, Oliver has vision up to about one metre in distance and uses voice skills on his smart devices to access information. Oliver has toured India with the 2022 T20 Blind Cricket World Cup, is the national junior champion for blind tennis and has represented Australia in Bahrain with goalball.
Composer Paul Jarman is a great pairing for the young vision-impaired athlete. Jarman specialises in writing music about inspiring people and events. His previous subjects have included Jessica Watson, Helen Keller, and Malala Yousafzai, to name a few.
The artist chosen to depict Oliver’s last memory of sight on canvas, is Gary Myer; his artworks are highly sought after by collectors in Australia and overseas and he’s held exhibitions in England and China. Gary has interpreted Oliver’s Last Seen memory – a family trip to the Grand Canyon. At the time of the trip, Oliver recalls he was fast losing his vision and his parents had been keen for him to experience adventures. He remembered the different colours of the Grand Canyon from the various viewing platforms and the distinctive orange tinge, which Gary has captured using his unique style.
Musician’s memories captured on canvas by acclaimed Australian artist Rick Everingham and put to music by Grammy composer Tim Davies
Jane Britt x artist rick Everingham x composer Tim Davies
Jane Britt is an accomplished classical pianist, clarinettist, singer, disability advocate… and since the age of 22 has been navigating the world without vision. That’s when she added photography to her professional skillset!
“When my vision started to decline, I took up photography to bring the world I can’t physically see closer to me on the computer. It’s also a way to capture still frames in my mind for when my vision goes completely.”
After years behind the lens, it’s now Jane’s turn to be the subject, as she is captured on canvas, by acclaimed Australian artist, Rick Everingham at the 2023 Last Seen Exhibition. With Rick’s experience living and painting in Tuscany for over 20 years, he is undoubtedly the perfect artist to be paired with Italophile, Jane. Rick has painted Jane’s memory of Christmas in Sorrento, Italy as a 15-year-old – the bells pealing, Santa Claus in a horse-drawn carriage, Christmas lunch decorated with bright red poinsettias and delicious smells of traditional Italian cooking. His Last Seen artwork will be accompanied in concert by Grammy and Annie-nominated composer, arranger, orchestrator and conductor, Tim Davies. Tim has a strong presence in Hollywood, he has orchestrated and conducted movies like Free Guy, Hotel Transylvania 4, Bob’s Burgers, Frozen and Frozen 2, both Ant-Man movies, The Lego Movie 2, Empire, and WandaVision.
Jane’s vision became unstable when glaucoma in her right eye compounded her already low vision caused by congenital rubella syndrome. She also has profound deafness in one ear. But this hasn’t held this mighty woman back. Jane graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium, the University of Queensland, and the Australian National University with honours in Psychological Studies. Jane is now the Policy and Advocacy Team Leader at Blind Citizens Australia and sits on the Board for Queenslanders with Disability Network.
Composer creates world premiere music to accompany artwork of his Last Seen memory in moving exhibition about sight
Dr. Jeff Usher x artist Meredith Howse x composer Dr. Jeff Usher
Accomplished pianist, composer, blues singer, lecturer as well as teacher, Dr. Jeff Usher has recorded seven jazz albums and has been teaching at the Conservatorium since 1998. At the 2023 Last Seen Exhibition, Dr. Jeff will be composing the soundtrack to his own last memory of sight.
Award-winning, Australian artist Meredith Howse has worked Dr. Usher to celebrate the joy arising from his memory of vivid colours, especially green. Why green? Jeff’s new composition for Last Seen 2023, entitled ‘Angel in a Lime Green Dress’, is a dedication to his wonderful friend and music teacher, Kathleen Kerr, who still serves as an inspiration to Jeff 25 years after her passing. Meredith Howse has used her ability to draw inspiration from the beauty of landscape and applies it to Dr. Ushers recollections of Kathleen Kerr’s lime green dress catching the light in the late afternoon sun. The memory has remained with Jeff since the day he met his friends and teacher from St Edmund’s College, for a high school trip to see the Symphony Orchestra at Sydney Town Hall. Meredith became a best-selling artist on Bluethumb in 2020 and featured on The Block 2021 as an Art Lovers Australia established artist.
One of Queensland’s foremost jazz and blues artists, Dr Jeff Usher was born with advanced glaucoma and recalls he could see colours until about the age of 15. He learned braille from the age of 5 and then used a screen reader when he studied his Masters of Music from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, and a PhD in Music Composition from the University of Queensland. Dr. Usher has only light perception in his right eye and experiences synaesthesia – where the stimulation of one sensor stimulates another sensor at the same time. In this case, Jeff associates words and sounds with colours. Dr. Usher thinks of his compositions as living personalities. He considers each song as telling a unique story and taking the listener on a vivid journey.
Haunting fusion of peace and terror, in soldier’s Last Seen memory now on canvas in and music
Michael Lyddiard X artist Kym Hart x composer Ralph Hultgren AM
Artist, Kym Hart had a head start in the art-world, having the famous artist Pro Hart for a father. Kym’s newest assignment, however, has been a detour from his usual work. The artist from Broken Hill was tasked by 2023 Last Seen to depict on canvas, the last visual memory of former Australian Army soldier Michael Lyddiard.
What a great responsibility to take this soldier’s heartbreaking recollection of last sight and turn it into something beautifully haunting. Michael Lyddiard lost his vision whilst dismantling a Taliban-made improvised explosive device, and when it detonated with a force so great it took with it his right arm below the elbow, his right eye and part of his left hand. “It was a quite a day at the office,” he recounts.
The composer tasked with interpreting Michael’s vivid memory that autumn afternoon in 2007, is Ralph Hultgren AM. Hultgren has a compositional output that ranges from educational and amateur performing groups to the professional studio and stage, and his conducting credits are equally broad. Artistic Director of the Australian International Music Festival – Sydney, Ralph was awarded an Order of Australia alongside other professional awards of Excellence, both in Australia and overseas. Hultgren’s musical composition and Hart’s artwork imagine Michael’s last visual memories, moments before and after the explosion: the peaceful hut and green landscape suddenly charred by dirt and blood, and with it, the burning sensations and smells.
When Michael was first injured, he couldn’t possibly understand the extent of his wounds. Today Michael is an Occupational Therapist, with a specific interest in helping veterans who have also suffered physical and psychological injuries. He is an endurance athlete – winning three gold and two silver medals at the Toronto Invictus Games in 2017. And as an Ambassador for the Veteran Charity “Soldier On”, Michael was a finalist in the 2017 Queensland Australian of the Year awards.
2023 LAST SEEN
A poignant and inspiring creative showcase, pairing vision-impaired Australians with renowned artists and composers to depict their last visual memory. The original artwork by Tracie Eaton, Faith, is available for sale from lastseen.com.au.
The Last Seen Exhibition runs from 18-29 April at the Queensland College of Art Grey Street Gallery (226 Grey Street), 10am-4pm; entry is free.
Tickets to the concert at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University on the 21st of April, can be purchased from lastseen.com.au ON SALE NOW.
Proceeds help the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation, the state’s largest independent academic institute devoted to eye-related health and diseases, continue its research to save sight.