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Art exhibition celebrating gay role models opens in Melbourne

Ross Watson’s exhibition features gay British soldier Lance Corporal James Wharton
Untitled #06/11 in Ross Watson's Cycles&Sequences series, featuring Lance Corporal James Wharton

An exhibition of paintings by Australian artist Ross Watson featuring Lance Corporal James Wharton, a role model for gay people in the British army, opened in Melbourne yesterday.

Wharton, who held his civil partnership in the Household Cavalry barracks in 2010 and is a spokesman for Stonewall, is in Melbourne to open the exhibition at a reception today. He told Gay Star News he was 'very flattered' when he heard Watson wanted to paint him and that when he saw the finished painting, which also features two Australian soldiers he 'really liked it immediately'.

'It's a bit different,' Wharton said. 'The thing about all of Ross's works is that they are just that, very different. You can look at them, I found anyway, and just see so many different things going on. His works are all of very good looking men, not to say that I'm one of those people. For this particular exhibition he's done a good cross-section of society.'

The exhibition, entitled Cycles&Sequences, also features gay porn stars Lukas Ridgeston, Dolph Lambert and Kris Evans.

Watson said that Wharton 'was great to work with'. He said: 'As a professional soldier he's learnt how to be relaxed in stressful situations, and wearing his impressive uniform was helpful as it is like a second skin to him.'

Sir Elton John, a long-term fan of Watson's work, bought one of Watson's limited edition photographs of Wharton. 'Elton loves it,' said Watson. 'And is, like myself, keen to celebrate and promote positive gay role models. James was over the moon when he learnt Elton had bought my portrait of him.'

The exhibition at the Ross Watson Gallery is part of Melbourne's Midsumma Festival (15 January to 5 February) that celebrates LGBTQ life. 

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