The attitude and work of Lin Onus stemmed heavily from his background. He was the son of an Aboriginal father and a Scottish mother and in his endeavour to discover his own identity, he mixed the indigenous and Western styles in his own unique way.
Lin was born in 1948 in Melbourne, his father being of the Yorta Yorta people from the Barmah Forest country. Lin used images from this area when he took up painting and sculpture in 1974.
He created paintings which were not only essentially Australian but showed what it is like to be an Aboriginal Australian living in a city. He helped to raise the profile of indigenous art, including being one of the leaders of the urban Aboriginal Art Movement.
Importantly, his work is appreciated for his technical skill as much as the mix of styles. His strong socio-political views combined with great expertise resulted in art that is political, provocative and distinct.
Lin Onus’ early works displayed anger at Aboriginal social injustice, but he later employed whimsy to paint a less strident picture.
Perhaps he learned the power of humour from his father, Bill. The story goes that in the early 50s Bill Onus was asked, in his role as President of the Australian Aborigines League, to provide a suitable token Aboriginal name for a new Melbourne community festival. Lin loved to recall how Bill suggested “Moomba” to the gullible city fathers, saying it meant “let's get together and have fun”.