Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards
Artist Profiles - Finalists

 

The 15 artists and one artists’ group selected to exhibit in the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2009 are:

(listed alphabetically)

Tony Albert   Yinarupa Nangala
Lorraine Connelly-Northey   Dennis Nona
Timothy Cook   Tiger Palpatja
Nici Cumpston   Christopher Pease
Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi   Shane Pickett
Ricardo Idagi  

Spinifex Artists Group (Women’s Collaborative)

Brian McKinnon   Wakartu Cory Surprise
Doreen Reid Nakamarra   Daniel Walbidi

 

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Tony ALBERT

Language: Girramay
(born 1981 Townsville QLD, lives Brisbane QLD)

   
     

Tony Albert utilises popular culture as a vehicle to express himself artistically, which he states is like ‘..a guerrilla tactic for Aboriginal artists.’ Albert spent the first years of his life in the rainforest area of northern Queensland, and recently Albert has been engaged in reclaiming his rainforest heritage through attending cultural practice workshops.

This has resulted in an interesting artistic exploration in his current work: A young rainforest man is seen from the back facing different urban environments while wearing a jawun, a woven basket hanging from the forehead that is unique to the rainforest area of north Queensland.

In this way he places a traditional art form that is now found mostly in museums into a different context by reintroducing it as a utilitarian object and, in the process, as a cultural icon. This work also represents a multiple self-portrait of the artist, living an urban lifestyle while still strongly acknowledging his cultural identity.

 

Tony Albert
Optimism 3 2008 edition 2/5
chromogenic print
80 x 80 cm (image)
Artwork courtesy the artist
Image reproduced courtesy the artist and Gallerysmith, Melbourne

 

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Lorraine Connelly-Northey

Language: Waradgerie

(born 1962 Swan Hill VIC, lives Swan Hill VIC)

 
     

Lorraine Connelly-Northey comes from a strong weaving tradition, but has replaced the traditional materials used for weaving by her ancestors with found objects - mostly metal wire and sheets of rusted iron but also feathers, stone, bone, wood and shells. The barbed wire, corrugated iron and metal scraps are all indirect and ominous testimony to the changes this country underwent during colonisation by white people.

Connelly-Northey’s work pays tribute to her material culture by recreating the time-honoured shapes of Aboriginal objects such as narrbongs (string bags), possum-skin cloaks, fish traps and coolamons. The scale of the current work encapsulates the broadest range of her artistic practise and the ideas and references to utilitarian objects and their use by Indigenous people both traditionally and in a contemporary sense. The two snakes in the work represent tributaries of the Murray River that connect at one point, and tell a story of life on the land and river.

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Waradgerie Winnowers’ 2009
corrugated iron, tin, mesh, rabbit-proof

fencing wire, barbed wire and an

assortment of fencing wires
770 x 327 cm
Artwork courtesy the artist
Image © Lorraine Connelly-Northey


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Timothy Cook

Language: Tiwi

(born 1958 Goose Creek, Milikapiti,
lives Melville Island NT)

 

 

 

     

Cook has an unconfined and unlimited style that has constantly evolved since he began to paint in 1996. From 2002 onwards he introduced distinctively personal and freely drawn elements into his work: large jostling circles, referencing the Kulama ceremony and crosses, denoting Catholicism as well as Pukumani tutini (grave poles).

Rather than concentrating on Pukumani, the poetics of mourning, Cook is absorbed with the Kulama, a coming-of-age ceremony. The circular motifs that recur in Cook’s paintings allude to the moon as it passes through the heavens, the yam flower and the circle formed by participants during the ceremony.

Cook has an instinct for pure painting and is not afraid to hit a blank surface with masses of natural pigment. He has forged an idiosyncratic style that accords with the kinetic properties and innovative spirit that lie at the heart of Tiwi art but veers away from the increasingly minimalistic approach of many of his peers.

 

Timothy Cook
Kulama 2008
ochre on canvas
119.5 x 179.5 cm
Artwork courtesy Private Collection
Image © the artist, courtesy of Jilamara Arts and Crafts

and Seva Frangos Art

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Nici Cumpston

Language: Barkindji

(born 1963 Adelaide SA, lives Adelaide SA)


   
     

Nici Cumpston is of Paakintji (Barkindji) descent, and is currently based in Adelaide. Her photographs of Lake Nookamka, a shallow lake connected to the great Murray River in the Riverland country of South Australia, is the subject of her current body of work.

Cumpston’s work captures a once thriving area that teemed with animal life. Where many people would have gathered to hunt, camp and conduct ceremony, what we see now is unprecedented damage. This is a direct result of the abuse of a natural resource, and also unveils previously unknown Aboriginal burial grounds.

These images capture the harshness of this environment, a desolate countryside exposed to the realities of extended drought and the slow death of a river system that has been subjected to years of unsustainable water usage. Through the medium of photography, Cumpston allows us all to witness this catastrophe and appreciate the urgency of efforts to avert the harm being done.

 

Nici Cumpston
Campsite, Nookamka Lake I 2008
archival print on canvas, hand coloured with watercolour

and pencil
75 x 205 cm
Artwork courtesy the artist
Image reproduced courtesy the artist and Gallerysmith, Melbourne

 

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Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi

Language: Yolngu

(born c1942 Milingimbi NT, lives Elcho Island NT)

   
     

Among the Yolngu people to whom Gurruwiwi belongs, Venus is Banumbirr, Morning Star; the brightest star, which crosses each clan’s country and is seen in the west before dawn. It symbolises, through the story passed on to him by his father, Gakupa, ‘the cycle of life and the metamorphosis that occurs within it’.

Customarily, each wooden pole – ‘ngaraka’ - is decorated with four earth pigments – red, white, yellow and black (charcoal) – used in clan’s designs, with the addition of feathers at the top to represent the Morning Star, bush string and human bone and hair.

Sharing the story and the culture of the Banumbirr poles is the driving force in Gurruwiwi’s artistic life ‘because I want to show the world how people are all one’. His poles possess a splendid presence and have gained acclaim across Australia.

 

Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi

Banumbirr - Morning Star poles 2007/2008
ochre on wood with bush string and feathers
varying dimensions
Artworks courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

and Ricci Swart
Image © Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

 

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Ricardo Idagi

Language: Meriam Mer

(born 1957 Thursday Island, Torres Strait,
lives Mer Island [Murray Island], Torres Strait and Melbourne VIC)

   
     

Idagi is a multidisciplinary artist and musician committed to the maintenance and transmission of Meriam cultural law. His work is underscored by a profound belief in the importance of customary art, law, religion and magic, the culmination of many ‘years of listening to grandfathers and uncles telling their stories and singing lamentations of their totems (taum akadar)’.

Idagi’s work reflects his determined search to find and master a medium that would express the voice of his ancestors and recreate deeply treasured artefacts. In his words ‘…my ancestors made masks and ornaments from turtle-shell flakes and shells. I have revisited the tools and materials of my ancestors to recreate their messages and stories.’

Engaging with Idagi’s monumental masks and headdresses, fashioned from turtle-shell, cut feathers, multiple shells, fibre and bamboo, the viewer is filled with awe. His constructions transmit Idagi’s passionate conviction; truth to materials and honouring of culture.

 

 

Ricardo Idagi
Malo mask 2008
turtle shell, cowrie shells, mussel shells, feathers, raffia, wicker, saimi saimi seeds, human hair and ochre
157 x 120 x 70 cm
Artwork courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
Image © Ricardo Idagi, courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

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Brian McKinnon

Language: Yamatji/Wongai

(born 1957 Geraldton WA, lives Geelong VIC)

   
     

Brian McKinnon’s art practice has been informed and inspired by his life growing up in Blood Alley, an Aboriginal camp on the outskirts of Geraldton, Western Australia. The works included in this exhibition have strong visual similarities to political poster art. McKinnon's work reflects the memory of his personal experience growing up on the outskirts and fringes of Western society.

McKinnon’s use of predominately blue, red and green colours – representative of the ocean, the blood of Blood Alley community members and the wildflower season around Geraldton – with the graphic use of text, delivers a strong political message.

An image of the amagi is represented at the top of each work – a motif originating in Sumeria representing freedom. At the bottom of each canvas are patterned references to travel designs associated with the Yamatji people. In McKinnon’s work the play between text, symbol and image delivers a powerful, thought-provoking layered message.



 

Brian McKinnon
Crisis what Crisis 2008
acrylic and foam on canvas
152 x 91 cm
Artwork courtesy Mossenson Galleries
Image © the artist, courtesy Mossenson Galleries

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Doreen Reid Nakamarra

Language: Pintupi/Ngaatjatjarra

(born c1955 Warburton WA, lives Kiwirrkura WA)

   
     

The leader of a group of younger women painters working in the Kiwirrkura community, Doreen Reid Nakamarra, born at Mummine, near Warburton in Western Australia, emerged as a major artist with a mesmerising optical style that earned her the 25th Telstra General Painting Award of 2008. Beginning in 1996 she slowly developed her own pared-down linear style, inspired by her husband George Tjampu Tjapaltjarri’s dichromatic minimalism.

Encoded in Nakamarra’s evocations of important sites in Pintupi country are stories of ancestral women. Honoured by an obligation to engage with, speak for and paint ngurra (country) around Kiwirrkura she produces abstract and conceptual distillations of the site of Marrapinti that play on subtle variations of tone, texture and undulating zigzags to create a shimmering surface, which forms an optical grid.

The artist’s distinctive linear and dotted iconography accords with the trajectory of the Papunya Tula movement, but is uniquely hers.

 

Doreen Reid Nakamarra
Untitled 2008
acrylic on Belgian linen
150.5 x 183 cm
Artwork courtesy Cross Cultural Art Exchange (CCAE)
Image © the artist, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2009

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Yinarupa Nangala

Language: Pintupi

(born c 1961 Kiwirrkura region, lives Kiwirrkura WA)

   
     

Yinarupa has both witnessed and been influenced by the extraordinary Papunya Tula art movement, but her first foray into painting only began in 1996. Nangala represents the rich tapestry of her physical and spiritual environment and her birthplace - Mukula - dichromatically – mostly in black and white. Her paintings trace the Dreaming path of a group of senior women (‘Tingari women’) who travelled through Mukula gathering bush foods that are still abundant in the region today.

The shapes that feature in her work depict important waterholes and other sites visited by the women, as well as the food found along the way. Her works exhibit equilibrium between space and rhythm, and weave together traditional and contemporary lines to depict Pintupi country. The paintings provide micro and macro perspectives of the landscape she has travelled.

Nangala’s work is representative of the evolving style that is coming to characterise the art of women at Kiwirrkura, where she now resides.

 

Yinarupa Nangala
Untitled 2008
acrylic on Belgian linen
153 x 122 cm
Artwork courtesy Neville Pantazis care of Cross Cultural Art Exchange (CCAE)
Image © the artist, licenced by Aboriginal Artists Agency, 2009

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Dennis Nona

Language: Kal-Lagaw-Ya

(born 1973 Badu Island, Torres Strait, lives Brisbane QLD)

   


   

Dennis Nona was taught his people’s tradition of carving by close family members. Having later studied in Cairns and Brisbane, where he is now based, he continues the strong carving tradition that is intrinsic to island life and can be seen in the work of earlier pioneers including Ken Thaiday Snr and Rosie Barkus.

The name of the etching Kisai Mari Patan (2008) literally translates as Moon Spirits Eats. It relates to early Badu people’s customary belief that a lunar eclipse was the result of spirits eating the moon.

Two works, Byerb Ibaik (2008) and Kuik (2009), illustrate a unique aspect of Torres Strait Islander culture. Kuik or skulls were used as the main currency for trading and played an important role in ceremonial life.

With the support and encouragement of his elders, Nona is inspired to continue creating artworks that document and illustrate important traditional stories for future generations. Thus they represent much more than just works of art.

 

 

Dennis Nona
Byerb Ibaik 2009 edition of 12
white brass, black and white pearl shell,

giddi giddi seeds and fibre
16 x 15 x 24 cm
Artwork courtesy the artist and
The Australian Art Print Network
Image © the artist and The Australian Art Print Network


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Tiger Palpatja

Language: Pitjantjatjara

(born c1920 place unknown, lives Amata Community SA)

   


   

Distinguished as a daring colourist of painterly flair, Tiger Palpatja, born at Piltati in South Australia, is a senior artist working across Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.

Much of Palpatja’s work narrates the Tjukurpa (creation story) of his birthplace, which is intrinsic to his identity and concerns reciprocal relationships of feeding, nurturing and labour. Embedded in the body of the land, its rockholes, vegetation and subterranean depths, is the escalating conflict between wati kutjara (two snake brothers) and their wives, minyma kutjara (two sisters), that is given diverse and wondrous expression in his work.

Palpatja’s audacious paintings of colour and light challenge preconceptions that the pigments of Aboriginal art are natural ochres and its customary surfaces matt and quiescent. An image-maker of gestural flair, he is absorbed by the physicality of paint, its texture and vibrancy. The artist loves working with pigment, mixing, layering and experimenting with the visual effects of colour against colour.

 

Tiger Palpatja
Wanampi Tjukurpa 2008
acrylic on linen
152 x 121.5 cm
Artwork courtesy Aboriginal & Pacific Art
Image © the artist, courtesy Tjala Arts

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Christopher Pease

Language: Nyoongar

(born 1969 Perth WA, lives Perth WA)

   
     

Christopher Pease is a member of the Minang people of the Nyoongar nation, and his work is focused on Nyoongar heritage and identity. He has engaged in a considerable amount of research into developing a Nyoongar visual language derived from documented illustrations and language records.

In Law of Refraction (2008/09) Pease has re-created the historical print of a drawing by topographical artist Louis de Sainson. The drawing was created on board L’Astrolabe, which visited King George Sound in 1826. Pease has reproduced the original print as closely as possible and has superimposed on the image an illustration from a publication on the physics of light, representing European/Western culture.

This is juxtaposed with roundel shapes, a symbol he uses to signify the presence of Aboriginal culture in contemporary society in much of his work. As with King George Sound (2008/09) Pease’s works engage with issues relating to the collision of cultures and ways of thinking.

 

Christopher Pease
Law of Refraction 2008/2009
oil on canvas
123 x 214 cm
Artwork courtesy the artist and Goddard de Fiddes Gallery
Image © the artist, courtesy of Goddard de Fiddes Gallery
Photo: Robert Frith


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Shane Pickett

Language: Nyoongar

(born 1957 Quairading [Ballardung Country] WA, lives Perth WA)

   
     

Shane Pickett’s artwork reflects his lifelong journey to comprehend and then impart to others his knowledge of Nyoongar law and culture. His paintings chart the light and the lay of the Nyoongar landscape in his paintings, and particularly the six Nyoongar seasons.

The six Nyoongar seasons are a central subject matter for Pickett, who believes that understanding them is not only an important life skill for every Nyoongar person but an opportunity to promote, represent and embody cultural knowledge as it relates to country and self.

Versatile and prolific, he produces highly personal, ethereal landscapes that reveal an intimate relationship to, and understanding of, land and country. The works often tell the untold or concealed histories of Nyoongar lands that underscore the deep connections, pride and confidence that come from identity, family and knowledge of place.

 

Shane Pickett
Calling the clouds and the rain through songs 2008
acrylic on linen
199 x 290.7 cm
Artwork courtesy Mossenson Galleries
Image © the artist, courtesy Mossenson Galleries

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Spinifex Artists Group - Women’s Collaborative

Language: Pitjantjatjara

(Tjuntjuntjara community WA, Great Victoria Desert)

   
     

The Spinifex Arts Project commenced at Tjuntjuntjara, a small remote community some 200 kilometres west of the South Australian border in the Great Victoria Desert, in 1997. The project, and the collaborative artworks that were conceived as part of it, were embraced by the community initially as a cultural documentation vehicle that would support the Spinifex Native Title claim process.

Artworks are typically produced when visiting Country, and the paintings detail the pathways and the actions of ancestors who created, travelled across and are contained within Spinifex land. Contemporary Spinifex people’s relationships to Country and each other are narrated within the artwork, as well as significant sites within those areas.

Documenting these sites, relationships and stories provides artists with a flexible vehicle to record, promote and pass on elements of culture that is crucial to sustaining the long-term future and health of the Spinifex People.

 

Spinifex Arts Project (Women’s Collaborative)
Tjintirtjintir 2009
175.8 x 231 cm
Artwork courtesy Spinifex Arts Project
Image © the artist, courtesy Spinifex Arts Project


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Wakartu Cory Surprise

Language: Walmajarri

(born 1929 Great Sandy Desert, lives Fitzroy Crossing WA)

   
     

Surprise was born at Tapu in the Great Sandy Desert. Like many of her contemporaries, she started to paint when she was exposed for the first time to literacy and to direct communication with the kartiya (non-Indigenous people).

Due to its limited palette and spare visual vocabulary, her work has been compared to that of Rover Thomas. Her abstract works have boldness, strength and a vivacity of colour contrasts – mixtures of ochre, from joyous yellows to fiery reds. Surprise knows the law of her country and has seen the places that she depicts, such as jiji, jumu, jila, jiwari and pamarr (sandy hills, soak water, springs, rockholes and rocky hills).

Deeply intrinsic and essential to her work is storytelling. Telling the stories of her works through words in later years has resulted in a better understanding of her subject and style, which have grown more powerful and symbolic in her recent paintings.

 

Wakartu Cory Surprise

Kurtal Jiwari 2009
acrylic on canvas
119.5 x 119 cm
Artwork courtesy the artist, Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing
Image © the artist, courtesy Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing

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Daniel Walbidi

Language: Yulparitja/Mangala

(born 1983 Broome WA, lives Bidyadanga WA)

   
     

Walbidi is the youngest of the artists working at Bidyadanga, an 800-strong community in the far north-west of Western Australia. His work is informed by his cultural heritage and key turning points in a young life.

The enforced historical situation of migration and return by members of the Bidyadanga community is directly reflected in the work of the Yulparija and Mangala artists of Bidyadanga – and particularly in Walbidi’s work. The transition from desert subsistence to coastal living has meant that Walbidi and other Bidyadanga artists have adopted a colour palette that alludes to both the saltwater environment and the desert.

Of particular importance as subjects for Walbidi’s work are the central jila Kirriwirri, the birthplace of Walbidi’s father, Meridoo, and the potent site of Winpa, the living water of his ancestor's country. Walbidi’s bold abstract works create transitional spaces in which history and contemporary community life are united to create a dynamic forward movement.

 

Daniel Walbidi
Kirriwirri 2007
acrylic on canvas
90.8 x 91.0 cm
Artwork courtesy of Short St. Gallery
Image © the artist and Short St. Gallery


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Exhibition opening times

The Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2009 exhibition is on display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 25 July to 15 November 2009, 10am-5pm.  Closed Tuesdays… more

Entry to the exhibition is free. A gold coin donation is always welcome.

 

See also

   

 

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