Farquhar tapestry unveiled at University House

Distinguished Professor Graham Farquar at the unveiling of the tapestry. Photo by Lannon Harley, ANU
25 June 2019

Distinguished Professor Graham Farquhar has been honoured with a tapestry representing his life's work, including his Kyoto Prize, unveiled at University House.

Professor Farquhar, who is known for his work in plant biophysics and photosynthesis, received the 2017 Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences in November 2017 following the announcement in June of the same year.

The Kyoto Prize is the most prestigious international award for fields not traditionally honoured with a Nobel Prize.

"It's deeply satisfying and such a great honour," Professor Farquhar said, after the tapestry was unveiled.

"It makes me think more and realise more about what must have been behind the discoveries that led to the prizes of the other people."

People often tend to think of the one person who has won the accolade, he said.

"But of course there's a whole organisation behind them."

The Farquhar Tapestry - which took about four months of full time weaving - was created by textiles artist Valerie Kirk from the ANU School of Art and Design textiles workshop.

It now hangs in the foyer of the Hall alongside five other tapestries that were also created by Valerie to commemorate the works of other notable scientists including the late Professor Frank Fenner and Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.

"It is the most complicated of all the tapestries here as the subtleties of the watercolour effects, the complex colour changes and precise detail required constant attention," Valerie said.

Valerie drew inspiration from a variety of sources including a humble equation Graham wrote down on the back of a coffee card as well as his famous underarm notebook dubbed 'the Blue Book' which he uses to take notes of his research data.

"It has been an enormous pleasure to work on this project - to see the unknown become reality through drawing on all my skills and knowledge," she said.

"I hope that the tapestry embodies Professor Farquhar's dedicated and creative approach to science, his love of eucalypts and the Australian bush, and the importance of the work in the terms recognised by the Kyoto prize and citation."

As part of the unveiling ceremony, Valerie also presented a framed print of another tapestry that she weaved, as a personal gift, to Graham. That tapestry, called Water use of plants, has won the Teitelbaum Award in the Small Tapestry International Exhibition. It is currently touring galleries in the USA until the end of 2020.

Professor Schmidt used the opportunity to not only recognise Graham for his work, but also that of Valerie.

"Valerie is one of the remarkable people who is a part of this community," he said.

"It's not just scientists, even though we have six tapestries about science. It's about having tremendous artists and scholars of all types here. That's what really makes the university environment what it is.

"I encourage everyone to give Graham another pat on the back but also Valerie, whose hands have put this together very slowly. Let's pause and think about what each of our own discoveries, big or small, will be."

This article originally appeared on the ANU News website, on 24 June 2019.