Self-taught artist Michael Bain is in the running to win the 2021 Brisbane Portrait Prize competition for his portrait of doctor, lawyer and lecturer Dinesh Palipana.
Michael’s wife had told him about a doctor she worked with who was achieving amazing things after a car accident in 2010 had left him paralysed.
He was intrigued to learn that Dinesh was advocating for diverse abilities and Michael believed he could help tell his story through art.
“As a doctor in Australia’s busiest emergency department, Dinesh deals with tough situations every day, but underneath his doctor’s scrubs, as descripted on his chest in my artwork, is a remarkable and kind man,” Michael said.
“Coming from the darkness into the light emerging stronger, Dinesh is a modern-day superhero revealing his life’s purpose – to give back to others – and is a man who has ability, not disability.”
Dinesh is also a member of Queensland Law Society’s Diverse Abilities Network (DAN), which aims to shine a light on inclusion within the legal profession and raise awareness of diverse abilities.
Fellow DAN member Ashleigh DoRozario believes the portrait is an accurate representation of Dinesh and a depiction of “the true man behind the titles”.
“Dinesh is an incredible inspiration to people with disability, because he exemplifies just how capable we are despite the limitations that may be imposed by our impairments,” she said. “He is a great supporter of people with disability, always generously sharing his time, experiences, advocating our inclusion, and facilitating connections to those who may be able to assist and advance our cause.”
Dinesh believes we are at a time when diversity discussions are important conversations to have, and that his journey would not have been possible if the people in his life did not believe in inclusion.
“We need to include people, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it benefits the whole world,” he said.
“Diversity is beautiful. Diversity makes us rich. Diversity even makes us more innovative, more productive.”
He explains that a more subtle message in the portrait is in the word ‘Invictus,’ meaning undefeated. While Dinesh was in hospital following the car accident, a friend had hung up the poem Invictus by his bedside. He says he still thinks about this poem every day because its words continue to hold significant meaning for him.
When it came time for the portrait unveiling, Dinesh said it was an emotional moment and he was blown away with the final result.
“It’s an incredible privilege to have someone depict you in this way,” he said. “Apart from the technical talent that Michael has for art, the feelings evoked by the painting were so strong.
“The painting describes what can be achieved if we are inclusive. There are no limits.
“It acknowledges and celebrates people behind the journey. Those people include my friends and most importantly, my mum. When you look inside, it describes some of the things that make me who I am.
“And hey, I like the nod to Superman.”
The Brisbane Portrait Prize Finalists exhibition will be showing at Brisbane Powerhouse from September 29 to October 31.