Modernians, 90 years apart, connected with art

Modernians, 90 years apart, connected with art

17 March 2023

In the news Public school life

A Perth Modern School student has crafted a portrait of Western Australia’s oldest man who graduated from the same school himself 90 years ago.

Year 12 student Benedict Widjaja participated in the Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers, an intergenerational arts initiative where teenage artists create portraits of WA’s centenarians.

Perth Modern School student Benedict Widjaja and Gordon Ewers.

As part of the project, Benedict was paired with former Perth Modern School student Gordon Ewers who attended the school from 1929-1933, graduating 90 years ago.

At 107-years-old, Mr Ewers is the oldest man in Western Australia, and third oldest man in Australia.

Throughout the project, Benedict visited Mr Ewers at his home in Brightwater Madeley, as well as at Joondalup hospital when he was in rehabilitation.

Benedict said the pair had many common interests. When they first met, they began making music with Benedict on the piano and Mr Ewers singing.

“Getting to know each other was easy, due to our shared Modernian identity, and many other shared interests such as, music, literature, travel and Christianity,” he said.

Benedict used the skills and techniques he learnt as a Year 11 ATAR Visual Arts student to craft his portrait.

“You can never make me look pretty, but you can make me look happy”, Mr Ewers jokingly told Benedict.

Benedict Widjaja's artwork. 

Those are the words that stayed in his mind as Benedict created the portrait, depicting Mr Ewers’ big warm smile, with some of his poetry adorned in hand-lettering in the background.

In his artist statement, Benedict said: “I, and many others, find Gordon to be so special, as he never fails to make whoever he meets smile, whether that be me, the cameraman, or the nurses at the hospital he briefly stayed at.”

The project culminated in a state exhibition at the Wilkinson Gallery at Claremont Showgrounds.