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A Life in Service

by Mandy Martin, 1 December 2005

Artist Mandy Martin describes the creation of her portrait of Aldo Giurgola, principal architect of Australia's Parliament House.

Aldo Giurgola, 2005 by Mandy Martin
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Aldo Giurgola, 2005 by Mandy Martin

This triptych presents the breadth of Aldo Giurgola’s life-work in the context of his own life-journey.  I wanted to present him as a man of humility who has truly served humanity and to represent this through his three ‘houses’, that of God, Parliament and his own house.

The three panels of the portrait are united visually with the ellipse of light in the middle of the composition, surrounded by darker tones and light shafting from top right to middle ground.  Aldo literally stands in the middle of a platform of light which reaches back into the landscape.  These signs of universal hope and/or transcendence are employed in turn by JMW Turner in his drawing of Tintern Abbey and by Tom Roberts in his ‘big picture’ of the Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, which hangs in Parliament House. 

My commissioned painting in the Parliament’s Main Committee Room, ‘Red Ochre Cove’ quotes the Tom Roberts painting, and through incorporating this same device here, I hope to allude to the importance of painting and art to Aldo throughout his life and his architecture.

The materials used in the triptych are simple: white oil paint (in keeping with the purity of Aldo’s architectural forms and his preference for white); yellows and stone (as close in colour as possible to the sandstone in his photographs from Italy); red ochre to mark his decision to live in Australia, and raw umber to represent the deeper soil from the hilltop near Lake Bathurst where he literally has put down his own roots.