RECENT PAINTINGS BY SENIOR GIJA ARTISTS FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIA
RUSTY PETERS, PEGGY PATRICK, PHYLLIS THOMAS
From the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia comes the art of three of Australia’s leading painters: Rusty Peters, Peggy Patrick and Phyllis Thomas. All three are senior Gija artists whose lives have been driven by the need to put cross-cultural communication and education into practice through art. The exhibition has been curated by the Nancy Sever Gallery and the Warmun Art Centre in Western Australia where the artists live and work.
What connects these artists is an encyclopaedic knowledge of Gija Country, their skills as expert cross-cultural communicators and educators, and the desire to share their art within their own community and to audiences beyond. Exploring vast areas of the spectacular Gija Country including Bow, Ord and Turner rivers, Roogoon (Crocodile Hole) and Darrajayin (Springvale Station) these works present a rich tapestry of narratives that reveal the contemporaneity of the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) amidst the currents of colonisation.
Is a senior elder, incredibly learned in traditional law and customs. He started painting in 1997 with Freddie Timms and Paddy Bedford and now has a high international profile, with his works in many major collections and museums around the world. His intimate knowledge of the Ngarranggarni of Darrajayin Country, gained from his grandfather while growing up and working on Springvale station, form the basis of a very philosophical artistic practice. His recent work is characterized by an increasingly distinct and sophisticated visual language. This is evident in the subtle textures he works hard to develop in natural ochre in order to illustrate his Country in a way that merges the pictorial with the abstract.
Who has an Order of Australia, is a very senior law, song and culture woman with a strong exhibition and performance history. She was central to the development of Fire Fire Burning Bright, a Gija and Worla coroborree that travelled to Perth and Melbourne International Arts Festivals. A formidable representative of the Gija people on the Kimberley Land Council, Peggy served for nine years as the Chairperson of the Gooda Gooda Community and negotiated for Aboriginal rights in the Argyle Diamond Mine agreement.
Phyllis Thomas is also a senior Gija law woman. She began to paint in 1998 when Freddie Timms set up the Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts group and her work achieved immediate success. She paints the country along the Ord and Turner rivers as well as depicting Dreaming places and bush tucker from the Roogoon (Crocodile Hole) area and the world heritage listed Purnululu. A characteristic element in many of her paintings are the boab trees that grow across the East Kimberley and are connected to traditional birthing practices.