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Hal Holman OL OAM, soldier, artist & designer, dies at 93


HAL Holman, who was awarded significant honours by the governments of both Australia and Papua New Guinea, has died on the Gold Coast aged 93.

He was a prodigiously talented artist and sculptor who devoted much of his life - and his art - to Papua New Guinea; his achievements including the design of the national crest and major influence in the design of the PNG flag.

After war service as a commando in New Guinea, which included operating behind Japanese lines on the mainland and being attached to the American marines who landed in New Britain, Hal used his Army demobilisation grant to earn a Diploma of Art at East Sydney Technical College.

Soon after he travelled to India and spent three years as art director for the Advertising Corporation of India in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.

Upon returning to Sydney, Hal worked for six years in the film industry: designing sets and working as an animator on 13 short films.

During these years he began portrait painting and created a number of murals including four at the Shoal Bay Country Club Hotel in NSW – which, upon its old building being demolished in 2008, commissioned him to recreate them for the new hotel.

David, Carla & Hal Holman with Hal's mermaid at Mermaid BeachHal moved to Port Moresby in the early 1960s, initially employed as an illustrator in the Department of Education, where he and I worked together for the first time – Hal designing and drawing, me writing and editing.

He was promoted to the position of Senior Artist for the PNG Administration, in which role he designed the national crest and was influential in the design of the national flag.

He also designed, drew and illustrated innumerable maps, posters, pamphlets and publications while continuing to produce portraits and other works, his paintings of birds of paradise and other PNG creatures were especially striking.

During this time he also designed the uniforms for the  Royal PNG Constabulary Band.

After leaving PNG just before independence in 1975, Hal turned his attention to sculpture, but continued to return regularly to PNG to work on a range of artistic assignments.

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, his output included a one-tonne metal national crest for the supreme court building, bronzes of six PNG prime ministers, a bust of Queen Elizabeth II and many examples of public sculpture including a magnificent fountain near parliament house.

He also worked on many commissions in Australia and his public artwork – including sculptures, fountains, fences and other built design – abounds in Sydney and the Gold Coast, including the famous mermaid at Mermaid Beach in Queensland, pictured above.

In 2004, Hal and I were awarded Orders of Australia on the same day at Government House in Sydney.

Hal Holman with Ingrid and me, February 2015And in 2009, in the company of his family and mates, Hal was formally invested into one of PNG’s highest awards, Officer of the Order of Logohu, by High Commissioner Charles Lepani.

Hal and I began working together in 1966 and we enjoyed a fine friendship over the following 50 years.

Hal is survived by his wife Jo, son David and daughter Lisa.

So very well done, my dear friend, so very well done.

Middle photo: One of the last pictures of Hal taken recently with son David and grand-daughter Carla and his sculpted mermaid at Mermaid Beach. Lower: Ingrid, Hal and me in 2014


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George Maxwell Drummond

RIP Hal, from your 2/6 Commando mate, "Bulldog" Drummond.

Peter Charley

So sorry to hear this sad news. Keith, your words are a wonderful tribute. RIP Hal.

Sally Jackson

Farewell to Hal, a lifelong family friend and a very talented, sweet man. Lovely piece on him from my dad Keith Jackson.

Murray Bladwell

Like all those who knew Hal, I have warm memories of his exuberant humour, his energy, his fearless nature and his great artistry. I am privileged to have two of his PNG themed paintings hanging on my walls. Great memories of a creative spirit. Vale Hal.

Alex Mitchell

Thanks for passing on the sad news. Judith and I are abroad at present so we won't be able to attend the funeral.

What a life, eh? Very inspirational. We'll have to up our game in his honour.

John Highfield

Just the other day I was re-reading Hal's memoir that you kindly organised to give us at the wonderful Mido lunch.

The image memory of him rolling down the road dressed in only shorts with a pistol stuck in the waistband after challenging the hapless lover and the Constabulary being told he was "in training for the Pacific Games" will stay with me forever !

Vale Hal - vale a rich and notable life. His spirit lives on through his art and sculptures for us all to enjoy.

Keith Jackson

Hal Holman's funeral will be held at 2pm on Monday 27 June at Eco Memorial Park, 21 Quinns Hill Road West, Stapylton (near Beenleigh) in Queensland.

Bob Lawrence

Farewell Hal. A dear friend and superb lunchtime associate. I shall open a good bottle of red to farewell you.

Sally Jackson

I am so sorry to hear this. I was so fond of Hal, such a lovely, gentle, talented, modest man.

Allan Kidston

Vale Hal. I worked with Hal at DIES (Department Information & Extension Services), as well as he was my neighbour in Boroko where he spent all of his time building a concrete hulled boat. He was a talented artist & a great conversationalist. A great person in PNGs development. Vale.

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