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Penny Wong Unveils Portrait at Adelaide Festival Centre

Friday, 01 September 2023
5 min read
Minister the Hon Penny Wong and Artist Tianli Zu Photo by Naomi Jellicoe

Minister for Foreign Affairs and South Australian Senator the Honourable Penny Wong unveiled a portrait painting, donated by internationally acclaimed artist Tianli Zu for display in Festival Theatre foyer.  

The portrait, The Senator and Ma, won the Holding Redlich People’s Choice Award at the Salon Des Refusés in 2016. The acrylic on linen artwork by Tianli Zu portrays Penny Wong in her two roles. The first is the public figure Senator Wong, a well-known politician. On the right of the canvas is Penny Wong as a mother. Her relaxed stance and attire show her in a happy moment with her daughter. 

The Honourable Penny Wong said: “I've said no to quite a lot of portraits over the years, but when Tianli contacted me, she spoke so much about her experiences as a Chinese Australian.

I hope this portrait says something more than about me, I hope it says something about our country and who we are - more accepting, respectful, and celebrating of the differences that our community encompasses.

— The Honourable Penny Wong

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM: “We are delighted to have this impressive painting by acclaimed artist Tianli Zu become part of our Works of Art Collection at Adelaide Festival Centre. The Honourable Penny Wong has a long association with Adelaide Festival Centre and is particularly supportive of our OzAsia Festival. She is a valued advocate of Adelaide Festival Centre’s cultural connections and understands the importance of the arts in growing international relations.” 

Expand Adelaide Festival Centre Artistic Director CEO Douglas Gautier Artist Tianli Zu and Minister the Hon Penny Wong Photo by Naomi Jellicoe

Adelaide Festival Centre Artistic Director CEO Douglas Gautier, Artist Tianli Zu and Minister the Hon Penny Wong

Image: Naomi Jellicoe

Artist Tianli Zu also has a long association with Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival and has had artworks exhibited during the festival, designing the striking Gate of Grace which was part of the entrance to the popular Moon Lantern Trail last year.  

The Senator and Ma portrait will be on display in Festival Theatre foyer beside a photographic portrait of the Hon Julia Gillard AC by photographer Peter Brew-Bevan and painted portraits of former Premiers, Don Dunstan AC by artist Clifton Pugh and Steele Hall by artist Robert Hannaford.   

Artist Statement: 

The Senator and Ma 

Tianli Zu 

born Beijing, China 1963 

The Senator and Ma portrays Penny Wong in her two roles.  The first, as the public figure Senator Wong, a well-known politician, she is depicted on the left of the canvas with her arms open wide, gaze confronting the audience, confidently posing a question. Secondly, to the right of the canvas, and slightly behind is Penny Wong as a mother, her relaxed stance and attire show her in a happy moment with her daughter.  

Wong’s full-lengthen portrait stands firmly on a charred and blackened land. In the foreground is the identifiable Senate seating plan as red volcanic craters in a barren landscape. The Senator’s small red chair sits empty and facing outward, revealing how uncomfortable the subject is with power. The theatrical darkened background is Mount Kinabalu, Wong’s home in Malaysia. Between the two portraits is a luminous rocky path leading to a dark abyss, however as Wong stated: “there is hope.” 

Painted by Dr. Tianli Zu who is an Australian multimedia artist with a PhD from the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Zu has a diverse practice making large-scale papercuts, sculpture, painting, animation, and installation exploring dualities, light and shadow, yin and yang, time and space. 

This is a revealing dual-portrait that shows much about its subject and potentially the state of our country.  

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