From death row to global artist

Written By komlim puldel on Sabtu, 21 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Supporters ... Tania Albers, Roshine Singam and Niranjela Karunatilake at Myuran Sukumaran's exhibition at an art gallery in the centre of Amsterdam. Picture: David Dyson Source: News Corp Australia

ROSHINE Singham looks around the walls of a small art space in a cultural community centre by a pretty canal in central Amsterdam.

"It's not upsetting," she says defiantly looking at the sombre-toned portrait paintings on the wall, daubed by her cousin Myuran Sukumaran on the other side of the world.

"When I speak with his mum and she is holding onto this hope that it is not going to happen. I'm beyond that. They can kill him, if that is the best they can come up with, they can kill him but they can't take this away."

Sukumaran yesterday went from a convicted drug trafficking jail-cell painter on death row to lauded international artist with his first and possibly his last solo exhibition in his lifetime.

There is something quite unique about a pop-up art gallery whose artists' image is everywhere, in self portraits in one room, on home movies playing over and over on the white walls in another but the man of the hour is nowhere to be seen.

Campaigners ... Niranjela Karunatilake and Roshine Singam show their support for Myuran Sukumaram at an art gallery in Amsterdam. Picture David Dyson Source: News Corp Australia

But he made it happen and even managed to enjoy his brief moment of fame as an international artist, albeit in a virtual sense through images emailed back to him throughout the one-night-only showing in the Netherlands. And his art infamy could grow with the exhibition to travel next to London, then Norway and later Canada.

"For me it is about getting out the message that he has shown what is possible and that applies to every prisoner and every prison, and that to me transcends his life," Rashine told the dozens of guests who can come to see the work of the condemned man.

"Its exciting that all of this (talent) was sitting inside him and in that bleak place he found it and his best self."

The 38-year-old Rashine, together with his friend Tania Albers and another cousin Niranjela Karunatilake, organised the one-day art installation for Sukumaran, condemned to death by firing squad on an island in the Indonesian archipelago, not to save him or give him some hope.

Reformed ... Myuran Sukumaran with some of his artwork inside Bali's notorious jail Kerobokan Jail in 2013. Source: News Corp Australia

It was, she says, to show the world what a man with a limited time to live could achieve and leave the legacy that people who have done wrong can change.

Roshine, who has lived in the Netherlands for the past eight years, was working in a cafe in Balmain, Sydney in 2005 when she read in a local newspaper about the Bali Nine and saw his name in print. At first the then law graduate didn't realise it was her young cousin, who only a couple of years earlier she was helping in his law studies.

"It's been a long road, from the shock of that day, reading Bali Nine and his name in the paper as arrested to this, that is a journey … I haven't seen him since that time, we have a Facebook relationship but I am doing what I can for him," she said, adding had he been a free man people would have still come to see his work.

Tania, who got in contact with him through the foreign prisoner service after reading about the Bali Nine in a newspaper in her home in Denmark, has visited him in jail several times including only a few days ago when she brought the 20 canvas paintings to Europe.

Tania Albers standing next to a portrait of her painted by Myuran Sukumaran. Picture: David Dyson Source: News Corp Australia

They included self portraits, images painted from photos of his dying grandfather, fellow inmates and guards and pigs. They were not hand-selected for showing necessarily but the paint was dry when he was about to be moved to the execution island and had to rush.

"When I saw him and asked him what he wants out of this he says he wants to show that given a chance this is what rehabilitation could be," Tania said. That rehabilitation included a degree in fine art from Curtain University.

Naranjela, who lives in London and is planning on taking the exhibition there next month to coincide with his 34th birthday, said something positive can some out of such a situation.

A Dutch photographer takes a picture of a painting by Myuran Sukumaran in Amsterdam, Holland. Picture: David Dyson Source: News Corp Australia

"One day he may be able to further his career and hold his own exhibitions and actually be there. I don't think any of us will give up hope as long as he's alive there is always hope."

She too had visited Sukumaran in jail, as late as February, and was amazed to see how his work had progressed with different styles.

She said the visit was extremely emotional for all.

"He's the strongest person I know and he made sure everyone around him was positive, he didn't want to see anyone cry, he didn't want to see people sad for him," she said.

"His clemency got rejected so he was more sad on the inside and there was a slight emptiness in his eyes but he still remains strong and tries to remain the person he is."

A flyover of the final journey for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from Bali to Nusa Kambangan prison where they'll be housed before their execution.

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