Our scientist of the year, in a new light

As the winner of a host of awards – including 2012 South Australian Scientist of the Year, 2010 Australian Professional Engineer of the Year, as well as this year being named among the Top 100 Most Influential Engineers in Australia – Professor Karen Reynolds is no stranger to having her photo taken.

Having her portrait hanging in Parliament House in Canberra, however, is another matter.

But from November 2, the Director of the Medical Device Research Institute at Flinders University will be seen by the public in a whole new light – in oil on canvas, in fact, as part of Portrait Artists Australia’s Celebrating Innovators exhibition.

Adelaide artist Avril Thomas – whose portrait of Alexander Downer was a finalist in the 2005 Archibald Prize and whose subjects have included former SA Premier Mike Rann and former Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Anne Edwards – has captured Professor Reynolds doing what she does best: coming to grips with complex biomedical engineering problems.

It was at Professor Edwards’ suggestion that Ms Thomas settled on her subject.

“It was absolute luck that Karen was available. She’d just come back from the UK. We just got stuck into it and got a piece ready in time,” Ms Thomas said.

“When I do portraits of people, I like them to speak about what they do, what is their speciality, and to bring objects into the image that are peculiar to that person,” she said.

“We’ve put in a few bone-holding devices and that kind of thing – that’s all part of what Karen does.”

Portrait Artists Australia is an incorporated, non-profit, national association of professional artists, dedicated to representing and promoting the art of portraiture in Australia and overseas.

Celebrating Innovators is on show at Parliament House, Canberra, from November 2 to December 13, 2012.

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