Artist’s striking John Hume portrait shortlisted for award

A Northern Irish artist has been shortlisted for an art prize for his striking contemporary portrait of the late John Hume.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 1:16 pm

Shoun Obana from Randalstown in County Antrim, completed his secondary education at St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt in County Derry. He then went on to do his undergraduate degree in Dentistry at Trinity College, Dublin before beginning his current postgraduate study of an MA in the Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects at Durham University.

Shoun painted the piece in response to the competition’s theme of ‘Heroism’, and the portrait has now been shortlisted for Durham University’s annual Student Art Prize 2021.

The large oil painting on wood, measuring 900x1300mm, was inspired by a photo of Hume taken on the streets of Derry on April 21, 1969, during the civil rights demonstrations at the time.

Shoun Obana and his artwork honouring John Hume.

In the photo, riot police can be seen moving in to break up a group of demonstrators while Hume is seen stepping into their path.

During the research for the painting, Shoun spoke with some of Hume’s colleagues at the John and Pat Hume Foundation about some of Hume’s values and what might be going through his head in the photo.

These conversations, along with insights from the book ‘In His Own Words’ by Seán Farren, inspired a series of words and statements which Shoun has layered through the background of his piece.

Shoun said: “It is my hope that the text, along with the removal of some of the photo’s context, might shine light on the human side to Hume’s extraordinary actions and speak to the idea that not all heroes wear capes.

“In highlighting Hume’s humanity, I aim to inspire the viewer to be courageous, show leadership and advocate peace, the things that make us think of Hume as a hero.

“The aesthetic was inspired by the modern stained glass at Durham Cathedral. This association felt essential in setting the reverend yet celebratory tone of my homage to Hume and resonates with the religious and community themes which served as a backdrop to his heroic work as a civil rights leader and politician.”

Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume passed away in August 2020 and has been depicted in a series of striking artworks by various artists which are now on display across Ireland and beyond.

Due the positive response to his painting, Shoun has started working on two more complimentary pieces making the entry part of a set of three which will pay tribute to Hume’s achievements and career.

Local people are being urged to follow the link to place their vote for the ‘People’s Vote’ in the Durham University’s annual Student Art Prize 2021 competition: stories.durham.ac.uk/studentartprize2021/