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Preparatory study for 'Nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground'. Head studies
, 2001

by eX de Medici

pencil on paper (frame: 119.7 cm x 127.5 cm depth 4.2 cm, sheet: 105.5 cm x 114.0 cm)

eX de Medici maintained her Canberra city tattooing business while working on the commissioned portrait of Midnight Oil for the National Portrait Gallery. In recognition of the band’s activism on environmental issues and land rights, de Medici used a scene of the Ranger uranium mine, situated in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, as a backdrop. The mountain in the background is Mount Brockman, a site of great cultural and spiritual significance for Kakadu’s traditional owners. For the individual portraits, de Medici worked from sketches based on photographs taken at gigs and at a studio session in Sydney. She did much of the drawing in the finished portrait using quills cut from the feathers of wedge-tailed eagles, and pigments obtained from the bark of mangrove trees of the Kakadu region. The band members’ necks are ‘embroidered’ with patterns from the wings of moths known to have existed in the area; while the title of the work quotes lyrics from Midnight Oil’s ‘Blue Sky Mine’ (1990), a song about environmental exploitation.

This drawing is one of ten preparatory studies for the Midnight Oil portrait that were acquired for the Gallery’s permanent collection. In 2002, the artist gifted to the Gallery the illustrated diary which documents the work’s creation.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2001
Accession number: 2001.192.7