Let the country come in is an exhibition created by artists from Greenough Regional Prison. The prison, on Western Australiaâ€™s Mid West coast, is an unlikely home to this gifted group of Aboriginal artists, who hail from communities all over Western Australia, and even South Australia and the Northern Territory. FORM Building a state of creativity 357 Murray Street Perth, Western Australia E. firstname.lastname@example.org T. +61 8 9226 2799 F. +61 8 9226 2250 This exhibition was designed and delivered by FORM. Published by FORM Edited by Elisha Buttler Designed by Glasfurd & Walker Printed by Scott Print All artwork photos by Bill Shaylor unless otherwise noted. All artworks were created over 2010-2011. Artist statements and oral histories sourced by Helen Ansell and Hamish Morgan. ÂŠ 2011. All rights reserved. Copyright for photographic images is held by the individual photographer. Copyright for written content and this publication is held by FORM. Copyright for artworks resides with the artists. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior permission from the publishers: FORM. Our websites: www.form.net.au www.midlandatelier.com www.courthousegallery.com.au www.thepilbaraproject.com www.canningstockrouteproject.com ISBN: 978-0-9808691-5-6 Cover: Turtle Dreaming 51 x 89cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga :: 2
The artists (who cannot be named by law) are part of a professional arts development program. Devised by cultural body FORM with the Department of Corrective Services, the program responds to research showing that prison arts programs increase the likelihood of prisoner rehabilitation and enhance self-esteem. The artists in this exhibition are highly skilled and carry within them a strong connection to their country and culture. By painting they ensure this connection is kept strong from the inside, enabling their country to come to them even when they cannot be in their country. :: 3
Foreword: Hon Terry Redman MLA Minister for Agriculture & Food; Forestry; Corrective Services
Elisha Buttler: Introduction Inside Out, Outside In
Helen Ansell: On being an art teacher at Greenough Regional Prison
Hamish Morgan: Dimensions of Experience
Catalogue of Works
Left: My Motherâ€™s Story 54 x 74cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Foreword HON TERRY REDMAN MLA, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE & FOOD; FORESTRY; CORRECTIVE SERVICES
Let the country come in is the title of an exhibition that showcases the artwork of some 30 prisoners from Greenough Regional Prison. As the title suggests, these artists, who come from Indigenous communities all over Western Australia, are able to ‘let their country come into prison’ through painting. The importance of country to Aboriginal people cannot be over emphasised and it is fitting this is recognised through this art exhibition. Western Australia’s Department of Corrective Services aims to contribute to community safety by reducing reoffending. Initiatives such as art programs, education and training give prisoners the opportunity to learn life and employment skills so they can make a positive transition into the community upon their release. Each of the State’s 13 prisons and seven work camps offer a wide range of education and training opportunities to prisoners with the specific goal of enabling prisoners to positively contribute to our society.
These opportunities provide prisoners with the knowledge, skills and, very often, the qualifications needed to move successfully from prison to the community, and into employment.
More than 1500 prisoners around WA are currently enrolled in education and training courses in a wide range of industries, including horticulture, hospitality, meat processing, metalwork and visual art. Of these, about 230 are enrolled in an arts program, including 28 students who are undertaking university arts units. We know that, in addition to helping develop practical skills, art can be an effective channel for strong emotions. The processes involved in the creation of art can help to build self-esteem and provide a constructive outlet and opportunity for self-reflection.
Left: Kangaroo Dreaming (detail) 57 x 70cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton ‘This painting shows the life cycle of the kangaroo. From its creation, through to being hunted.’ Artist, Greenough Regional Prison
I would like to draw your attention to the significant skills and creativity displayed by many prisoners in producing this artwork. I would also like to thank those who work closely with the prisoner artists in our facilities to make exhibitions such as this one possible. It gives me great pleasure to commend all involved in this exhibition, and trust that it brings with it, and all who visit the exhibition, a sense of goodwill and hope.
Previous page: Canning Stock Route 71 x 41cm (rotated) Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Inside out, Outside in INTRODUCTION ELISHA BUTTLER
‘You can feel it. Keep an open mind, let the country come to you. When I go out bush, I can read the country, I know the stories. When I paint: I’m in there, that country, walkin’ along.’ ARTIST, GREENOUGH REGIONAL PRISON
The title of this exhibition was carefully chosen by the artists at Greenough Regional Prison. It is adapted from the comment at the beginning of this introduction, made by a particular artist from Warmun, in the lush but remote Kimberley. Let the country come to you. Let the country come in. It is common for Australian Aboriginal artists to paint about that mysterious (to Western eyes) entity generally referred to as ‘country’ – not as ‘land’ or ‘landscape’ or ‘home’ but as something more encompassing yet nebulous, something more complete. What is interesting in this particular context of painting about country is the invisible, almost telepathic link between the artists, held in prison and often a long way from home, and their country. The artworks in this exhibition are overwhelmingly intricate, incredibly precise, which makes this link between prison – the inside, and country – a specific outside, even more compelling. To call it a psychic, emotional or spiritual connection seems twee but in many ways it is all of these things, although that is not to say it is detached from contemporary reality. But I think the Warmun artist, in his opening statement, articulates the relationship far better than I because what he is also identifying is the role of painting as a kind of portal allowing people to return to their country and at the same time of letting the country come to
Left: Yarrunga Community, (detail) 80 x 1002cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
them. All without leaving the confines of a small prison workshop space. Warmun incidentally, is a community with a strong heritage in Aboriginal visual art, home to eminent artists such as Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie and one of a few remaining art centres in Australia in which the artists still paint in ochre and natural pigments, rather than acrylic. While each artist has a distinct style and subject matter, the art of Warmun is easily recognisable. As Gija people, Warmun artists (two are represented in this exhibition) are also the custodians of fascinating stories which explain the specifics of Kimberley terrain and how it was shaped according to longheld beliefs around life and creation. As exhibition artist who is from this region remembers: Right: Remember (detail) 92 x 123cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton/New Zealand Next Page: Untitled 80 x100cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
‘I grew up with my two grandparents in a little community called Chinamen Garden, Yarrunga. It’s near Halls Creek. They took me to the Dreaming place, showed me when I was young, going to school. I Went to school in Warmun. Those old people would paint, they were good painters, they used the same kind of style, that same kind of style I got.’ When speaking, this artist seamlessly ties his experiences of ‘Dreaming place’ together with the practicalities of where he went to school, how he paints. While the narrative is unique to Warmun, each artist’s community guards its own set of narratives. Indeed, the art of all the people and communities featured in this exhibition is as much about contemporary, practical occurrences as it is about very, very old ones. Herein lies the potency of artistic practice. Art can span both the now and then, the immediate and ancient, the tangible and metaphysical, wrapping seemingly opposite concepts into one. In this way art is similar to ‘country’: things are not as simple as one or the other, not always divided according time, linearity, physicality or reality. For the artists painting from Greenough Regional Prison, art even makes mapped geography a mobile entity. It is elastic, not static. It follows its people, its
custodians, rather than sitting still and waiting for them to tread its surface. For the artists this is not a complex philosophical concept but a straightforward actuality. A Noongar artist from Northam, east of Perth, describes it in a matter-of-fact way: ‘When you’re painting here, you are not here. You are in your country.’ Letting the outside in and the inside out is a theme which repeats in different ways with this exhibition. Many artists have painted animals: as a spiritual figure, as a source of food or hunting, or simply as an observation of its existence as part of the shifting cycles of life. What is common to all of the exhibition works featuring animals, regardless of the context, is the degree of internal and anatomic detail present in the external renderings of the animals. An artist from Murchison, north of Geraldton, has painted the story of a giant kangaroo who, after being speared by a spirit called Mundung, leapt away, his trailing blood creating the ochre deposits that now form the rocky Murchison landscape. Equally compelling as the story of the kangaroo is the depiction of the kangaroo - which shows the bones of its curving spine and simplified internal organs as though they are visible from the outside. Another painting, by the Northam Noongar artist, visually describes the mating and laying rituals of the long neck turtle, including the yet-to-be-laid eggs visible inside the female turtle. The painting is highly detailed, as is evident in the artist’s explanation: ‘This painting is about the long neck turtle mating season – around winter time when there’s plenty of water about. They are found only in fresh water. Up the middle of the painting is the river – all the circles are different ponds where they go and lay their eggs (you can see the eggs still inside the mother turtle in the middle of the painting). You can also see the baby hatchlings swimming along.’ An artist from Maralinga in South Australia does not show the internal structure of animals but the
ornate detail of their outsides – their markings, the exterior curves of their bones and sinews. This artist deliberately creates optically complex, detailed visual surfaces, not only to convey what is real but what else is there; obvious but hidden, real but of another dimension, another state of awareness something anthropologist Hamish Morgan touches on in his own essay. As the Maralinga artist puts it: ‘Painting in a lot of colour makes someone look deeper. They look away and see more colours. Double dot, triple dot style makes you look closer. When you look, move, you see other colours. See you can put blue and yellow together and the person sees green – but there is no green there, that’s what you can do with colour.’ This notion of what can be both present and absent, depending on who looks at it and how they look at it is common for many of the artists. Another artist echoes the sentiments of the Maralinga man by observing of his own community: ‘The old people look at the country in a different way. Young people see all the trees, shrubs, all the hills, the old people just see the main waterhole. They just see it straight, like the real thing.’ Other paintings let the inside out in more confronting ways, perhaps most notably a painting simply called Boab Tree. Painted in ochre by a Warmun artist the painting reveals deceased human bodies hidden inside the Boab. The painting illustrates an historic massacre of local Aboriginal people that took place at the site during white contact. When boiled down, what this exhibition really emphasises is the intrinsic value of two things. The first of course is the art itself. As a portal, an enabler, a communicator, a mediator. Art, especially when considered in a context such as this exhibition, communicates and mediates within and across cultures, generations, time and space. Looking at it from an alternate perspective, prison mentor Helen Ansell teaches the artists the principles of quality artistic practice and the
opportunities this can present on the outside, and in this way art enables a stable future as much as it does confidence and self-esteem.
carried out with them. I believe this is part of the rehabilitation process.
Art can also be a catalyst for prisoners to re-enter more traditional education, i.e. literacy/numeracy. Trystan Kentish is a campus manager at Greenough Regional Prison; he has seen firsthand the benefits of They are reluctant to join education but are willing this type of program for incarcerated people. He says: to come to learn art, then once they see the friendly and relaxed environment that we have set-up here at Greenough, they are more willing to undertake ‘We try to make the delivery of our education focus on studies in literacy and numeracy.’ employability so that we can increase the likelihood of prisoners being able to earn a living upon release and Helen does a great job of explaining how the local community galleries work and how commissions work so that the prisoners have a better understanding of what is involved in selling their work ... I can also say the program has garnered interest from other regional prisons who have wanted to know how it works.’
For the women in the prison (who have work featured in this exhibition for the first time) the benefits of the arts development program are similar but in some ways distinct because the program enables engagement in an environment which is not always female-friendly. As Kate McLeod, Regional Women’s Support Officer at the Kentish’s observed outcomes of the arts development prison observes: program at Greenough Regional Prison are ‘It has been difficult to engage the women in multifaceted, spanning rehabilitation, employment traditional education programs but Helen’s art and further learning: program has been totally the opposite. There were women who were asking to join in the program after ‘Participation in art carries with it a certain degree of it had started and on the odd day when Helen was spiritual and cultural reclamation. Artists rediscover unable to attend, the female prisoners spoke of their parts of themselves that have been hidden for some disappointment. The women are gaining permission to time; this is evident in interviews that have been
now do ‘arts in cell’ as they choose to further their skills.’ For McLeod, the top outcomes of the program for the women include motivation, commitment, ‘pride and joy’ and improved communication skills: ‘If art can coax the female prisoners to work together, learn to listen to advice, discover something that they are good at or are proud of that comes from within, provide relief from personal demons then the art provided is not only important but possibly crucial.’ Weaving all of this together is the second valuable entity: country – wherever it is, whatever it comprises, whatever it means to us. This exhibition, and the program lying behind it, is so striking because it emphasises the fluid, cyclic sense of interdependentness between a human and their environment. On reflection it of course logical, as this exhibition artist reminds us: ‘The country will still be there forever and ever. My old grandfather said this country will always be here. When I die you’ll take it on.’
Left: Artwork Credit, Name, date etc.
On being an art teacher at Greenough Regional Prison
running the Tjukurba Art Centre in Wiluna taught me invaluable information as to how art centres operate, which I pass onto my students. Many have never exhibited or sold work through a gallery before – even if they have been painting all their life. This includes teaching the importance of using quality materials, how to price work, the way a commission works, the way an art centre runs, copyright, cataloguing work and so on. I also try to instil the value of selling work through an Aboriginal art centre – and am in the process of trying to connect artists with their local art centre in an attempt to give them a greater chance of continuing on with their art upon release.
‘Always prisoners in here, there’s a lot less need for talking bullshit. They are more faithful to themselves than they are on the outside. People can open up more. We all have the one common thing – we’ve all done something wrong. Everyone is at their lowest point of life. You can’t go more towards the bottom, so it must be going upward!’ ARTIST, GREENOUGH REGIONAL PRISON
The first thing most people ask me when I mention that I teach art in a prison is ‘Is it scary?’ The truth is that it is actually easy to forget that you are even in a prison within the Education centre at Greenough Regional Prison. The art classes can be very sociable, there’s often joking between the officers and prisoners, artists are encouraging and learning from one another and the atmosphere is very much that of a creative hub of artists with their heads down in deep concentration. Another common query is how can a white woman possibly teach Aboriginal men art. My response is that I don’t teach Aboriginal art; I teach art, and in this case mostly to Aboriginal men, although this year I have also been involved in teaching on the ‘womens’ side’ too. I am lucky enough to have some knowledge of Martu Aboriginal culture – having grown up in Wiluna and being adopted into the Jackman family. This is a great advantage for me in terms of introductions and connection with different families. My teaching approach is very industry-oriented with a focus on the current art market and the creation of saleable art, which I believe to be more relevant in this situation than a traditional approach to teaching art in which sales are not regarded as the primary objective. Having some experience
I often joke about the fact that the young guys coming into the art classes in prison are lucky to not only have one teacher but ten! While I offer advice on the elements and principles of design – colour, composition and so on – the other men in the group (whether deliberately or inadvertently) pass on to the others invaluable lessons. These include different techniques, knowledge and culture from the regions they come from – as well as the knowledge that they have gained from meeting other men in the prison systems around Western Australia. I find myself frequently amazed at how a complete beginner artist can show a dramatic improvement in their art in such a short amount of time. Sometimes the artist is also amazed to discover their own talent – describing it as something inside of them they never knew they had. To me, the value of this program is enormous. On a personal level for the artists it can be a way to tell their story and to gain respect. It’s always a real confidence booster when the officers on duty and the guys in the classes next door who often wander in for a look, are genuinely impressed by their work. To then have this work displayed – and sold – in a professional arena such as the Courthouse Gallery in Port Hedland in 2010 and now the Geraldton Regional Gallery in 2011, causes many of the artists to realise the true value of their talent and provides a massive incentive for them to continue with it. To be able to take a copy of the exhibition catalogue – as well as their personal art portfolios – home to show their families can also be a real boost to self-esteem.
Left: Reminder of Home (detail) 46 x 44cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
‘A big story. This is the story. Commonsense story. Now we stuck in that same little hole, no matter what we try there is no way out of it. Once upon a time we were cheap labour. Now the labour is coming from all kinds of places. Once upon a time we were going straight. Doing it straight. Then the beer came along and everyone is staggering and wondering until the last one drink themselves out. How do we get back to the start? One day we’ll get there, build that bridge. No fighting, no alcohol, back to square one. The oldfellas say get away from there, the young fellas don’t listen, they drink to make themselves game enough ( to say something)…I’m definitely in the creek with no paddle. I definitely got no paddle.’ ARTIST, GREENOUGH REGIONAL PRISON
One major difference with this year’s program is the inclusion of women’s artwork as part of the exhibition. The women’s unit can sometimes have a reputation of being one of the more difficult sections of the prison to work in. This is due to a number of reasons, including the fact that women often have more to worry about back home – such as children and family problems. If stress and frustrations are not given a proper channel to be released and expressed – such as through art – then they might otherwise be vented in destructive ways. An example of this can be seen on the days when art classes or other organised activities occur. It has been observed that the unit as a whole is a much calmer place on these days. While the women’s unit can at times be chaotic, I have found the art classes to be a fun and relaxed environment to be a part of, almost a kind of safehaven. The women are able to play the music of their choice in class and often complain that there is nowhere else peaceful enough in the unit to be able to concentrate on their art. In this way, art seems to be such a great tool for dealing with stress, for letting out frustrations, for creating a nice social environment and for helping pass the time in an otherwise very hard environment. When viewing beautiful artworks on a pristine gallery wall it is easy to not recognise the difficult situation in which these pieces were created. Not only are the artists represented in this exhibition dealing with the hardships of prison life, but the Education Centre within the prison (where our classes are held) is not purpose-built, is overcrowded and running on a very tight budget. The men’s art class is tightly squeezed between three other classes sharing the same space, only allowing up to eight men at a time to have space to paint. There is a waiting list of both men and women wanting to do art due simply to the lack of room available (only 20 - 30 people can practice painting divided into three classes in a prison of 280 inmates). The artists lucky enough to have made it into a class can then only spend four hours a day, one day a week doing their precious painting – again due to available space and budget restrictions. Due to this, some of the paintings in this exhibition that
would have normally taken a week to complete have actually taken a number of months. For security reasons prisoners are not permitted to paint on canvases in their cell – although they can purchase poor quality boards and paints (not fit for sale) to be used in their cells. Thanks to the ongoing support from FORM the artists have been supplied with good quality paint and canvas to be used in class, which would otherwise have not been possible. We are yet to have received any financial or other support from external funding or community organisations – a fact that this exhibition hopes to address – by sharing with the broader community some of the fantastic work that is being done and encouraging others to get along what is happening. I consider it a privilege to be among such a diverse and talented group. Where else would I have the opportunity to sit for days at a time with Aboriginal elders and artists from communities as far reaching as Maralinga (South Australia), Warburton (Western Australia) and Alice Springs (Northern Territory)? I feel very honoured to be trusted enough for them to pass on their stories for me to record for them – stories often passed down to them from their grandparents and told to me in hushed whispers, emphasising their significance.
Left: Gunayunga (Emu Dreaming) 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas Warmun Next page: Ceremony Time 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
They say the best way to learn is to teach and I believe that this experience has been an amazing learning experience for me – one that enriches my own artistic practice and gives me a greater understanding and appreciation of the amazing and diverse Aboriginal art scene that we are blessed to have in our own backyard.
The Rock Python 88 x 85cm Acrylic on canvas
A long time ago, back in the dreamtime, there was well known serpent, to bring the rain when people sing and dance. Also his two other brothers are now two different goannas. One is the brown and yellow – and the other is black and yellow and white. When they played a trick on him one day, that’s when he made the rain and lightening. The other brother ran and buried himself in the sand. That’s why he is the yellow and white. And the one who is black and yellow and white – he climbed in the tree, that’s why he is black now when you see him – he is the cheekiest one of all – he will chase you and bite and scratch you – to this day, he is the cheeky one.
WILUNA Kutjarra Bunka (Two Goannas) 40 x 61cm Acrylic on canvas
This painting is about the goanna egg season – around winter time in Wiluna. They lay their eggs in a hole in the ground and you can find it by following their tracks. You have to get them early. You have to watch out for the Dildi (Black Goanna) – sometimes they can be nasty – and can attack you. But the Bunka (yellow goanna) he’s alright.
Desert Rose (detail) 1002 x 62cm Acrylic on canvas
This represents the wild desert rose which grows along the Canning Stock Route, which once was my mother’s beautiful country, from Well no. 22. It has yellow and white flowers – you can see them in certain weather when the spring comes. It has small flowers but you can smell them from far away. Some of these can be used for food and bush medicines – to cure aches and pains. The white lines and red lines represent all the different places it may grow – along the open plains, tracks and beside the sand dunes.
The Waitch (detail) 1002 x 62cm Acrylic on canvas
The Waitch (which is Noongar for the Emu) was the fastest bird in the old dreamtimes. He was proud as he walked around. All the other birds were jealous. Especially the eagle, the hawk, the crow and the magpie. Then one day the four planned a surprise. That’s when the eagle called all the birds to have a race. So all the birds lined up ready to have a race - the hawk, the magpie and the crow were waiting and when the eagle said go all the birds took off. The emu flew fast, he was in front all the way, until he turned around a mountain back to the finish line. He flew low to the ground, that’s when the hawk dropped a stone on the emu’s wings. To this day, if you look closely at the emu’s little wing – it’s always small because of what happened in the dreamtime. Now you see the emu is a nomad - he walks wandering. That’s why the emu can’t fly no more, but he made up for his wings because he can run like the wind to this day.
This is about the song lines – dreaming – Tjukurrpa. Every rock hole has it’s own dreamings. And every rock hole has to be respected by every tribe and every people that go there. It is the people’s responsibility to clean the rock holes, to make sure there are no weeds or dead animals in it. Before they leave from the rock hole, the old people used to take a biddy (to carry water) to take water with them until they reached the next rock hole. When they travel they know when to find water in certain trees and grass which contain water when they are eaten – so they wouldn’t get dehydrated. The old people used to travel a long distance to reach certain rock holes but they knew the countryside and where to find them, because the song lines (Tjukurrpa) would tell them where to go.
Song Lines 39 x 68cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
The Country was dry. The waterhole was dry as well. And the white desert rose was growing, telling us it’s good to hunt. These three circles was the creek and the green grass is between them where the wild honey grows. And the two little circles on the outside are blocking the bad spirits so they can’t go into the land. BALGO
Yurumal – My Grandfather’s Country 85 x 86cm Acrylic on canvas
Wati Kutjarra (detail) 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas
The two men are dreaming because of these two hills (the circles). These are all the people here (around the water) and the two shapes in each corner are a big lake and a swamp. The two Wati (brothers) they went for a walk – every rain season they just go. They sing the song. They sing each other, like talking to their family – they talk like a Marpun (witch doctor – he lives by himself all the time, not with his families). One of these families went for a walk – they seen a kangaroo but he was very strange. As soon as the woman put her head down it became a man. She called to him – he was telling stories to them – and the Marpun man – he saw him and told him to go away and leave us alone – he’s trying to kill us – he’s a bad, bad man. And his younger brother, they saw him kill his own sister. And the Marpun man – he was singing about snakes – because snakes know how to kill the right person. So the younger brother – the murderer – was getting sick. And he was coming to this water to have a drink, but this mob saw him – they called out ‘Hey! Don’t drink that water you might get into trouble – go home to your family!’ And he went back home and he went to sleep as he was very tired. And that’s where he died – finished – because he kept making too much trouble for himself.
This story refers to the painting on the previous page. :: 35
LOMBADINA Barramundi 67 x 76cm Acrylic on canvas
This is a creek from the homestead in my fatherâ€™s country. My childhood years with my other siblings were spent here and further up the creek stands a tree where my sister was born under.
WARMUN Stalk (Jaburu) Dreaming (detail) 91 x 122cm Ochre and acrylic on canvas
These are some of the rocks in the Bungle Bungles (near where I live) – near the back road from Norseman Valley. It tells the story of the Stalk Dreaming. The big ones in the front, that’s the mother and father and three little ones – they’re the small baby ones – them three little ones getting hungry – they’re looking at place called Blue Hole. The mother and father fly over and over the big Blue Hole River to the main water hole they go round and get some fish and all that. They take it back to the small ones and then the mother and father get weak from too much flying up and down, flying up to the main nest and they die there – so the little ones got no support from their parents. So the little ones, who were too small to fly, die there too.
Left: Artwork Credit, Name, date etc.
This lake is called Bundialla, at Woollben Station in the Murchison area. Food still grows abundantly there - goannas, kangaroos, emus, ducks and swans. North east of the lake is two big rock hills, woman rock and man rock. The woman rock is called Budara after a powerful old man who lived there. It is a special rock with an underground lake. The underground lake is called Bimuda. The big lake dries up in the summer only the ducks stay there with the underground lake where they have plenty of water, and this is where Budara lives. The swans and the ducks are Budara’s messengers, when people get sick the swans start to :: 40
cry, the swans tell Budara what they have seen, then Budara walks to the camp and heals all the people. It is place of plenty when the big rain comes. It is a place of healing in time of sickness.
Boodura Story (detail) 86 x 86cm Acrylic on canvas
My Mother’s Country (detail) 94 x 92cm Acrylic on canvas
This is west of Lake Disappointment. You can see the Canning Stock Route through the middle of the painting. Many places along the Canning were traditional camping places. When Alfred Canning came down, he used blackfellas; tie them up at night and put salt in his mouth, make him find water then. Canning said he used survey equipment, gadgets to find water, but he used blackfellas. That’s what I heard. You can see a road, that one Len Beadell cut, my mum and dad came across it freshly cut, heard the noise of the trucks. That road’s called the Talawana track, goes to Windy Corner, then on to Alice Springs. You can also see a creek,
above the road. This painting is about the dreamtime story, the camping places, the creek, the lake, the rock-holes, but also about history. I heard this story from my mother. I been through that area. It took me awhile to really understand. When I first looked at the country, but after awhile of being there I understood then. By putting it on canvas I know where the tracks are, where the story took place.
Blue Tongue 90 x103cm Ochre and acrylic on canvas
You can see this hill on the highway going to Halls Creek. It’s called Loomubu (named after the blue tongue lizard). You see that rock there hanging out at the top – that’s his tongue. The stripes are the colour on his body. My uncle George he was born there – my grandmother Topsy Springvale – her sister Biddy Maningyal was born there too (they have passed away now, only one sister is still alive). Near the river there is a sandy creek (on the right) – the highway is going across (underneath) other side of Chinamen garden area.
This story is about the old man – he is travelling around the Northern Territory to Western Australia. The circles represent all the different places he’s been. So he was living in Blackstone – he went to Alice Springs and he met a good wife there and he told her that he was travelling around. Every day and night he hunts on the way – different bush tucker and all that – and wild honey too (he gets it from the top of them gum trees). He went past the Kimberly areas too. He seen a different sort of animal there, in the river, so he made his own way to get across on the other side. He came all the way past Geraldton, down to Perth and then back that way to Kalgoorlie. He met all his other families there – they were all happy to see him. Then he went back out to Warburton and made his way back to Blackstone. KALGOORLIE
Travel 84 x 85cm Acrylic on canvas :: 44
Riwar is the name of this country – near Alice Downs – you can see it from the Blue Hole River on the other side there. My grandmother’s sister was born there in that place, that’s why they named this place Riwar. The small black hill is called Ginyanyil – this means ‘Porcupine Dreaming’. In that place now you go there, when you hunt and are starving for feed, you just grab a dirt and throw him straight at the hill there – it goes up in the air and they say ‘Give me feed Ginyanyil’ (in language). And then they go there in the afternoon or morning and there’s too much porcupine
in that hill there. And not far from that one place, my real grandmother’s hill is called Gudjibul when you walk around there you get really itchy legs – you might think it’s from the Spinifex but when you get back to the camp your legs are really sore and you just start scratching. That’s because you’re not allowed to go there – it’s a sacred sight. The two streams in this picture are the Blue Hole River (on the right) and the main water spring for everything is on the left.
My grandmother – Mary – her real name is Moanim – this hill is named after her. If you stand at the Bungle Bungle Community homestead you can see it. It’s called Goadda – which means boss of that land, because my grandmother’s brother can’t use her name. She was born there at the bottom – and they buried her umbilical cord under a boab nut tree and it grew really big – which meant that she grew big too. That tree is still standing there from my grandmother. Because this hill is named after her. If you go near this hill or try to climb it you get sores or blisters – like from the hot sun. My family can go there but they need to get smoked first. WARMUN
Riwar 57 x 75cm Ochre on canvas
Goadda (detail) 70 x 100cm Ochre on canvas :: 47
This is the rain maker. The brown part is his heart. This is the spirit from my country – Kalumburu. Only people from this country are allowed to paint it. In Derby they have a different way of painting it as well, as well as another community Mowanjum. My grandmother taught me how to paint this.
These are little spirits. One is holding a fishing net to go fishing. And there is a boomerang and a spear to collect their bush foods – goanna, turtle and snake. These rock paintings are found in a famous cave in Kalumburu. The priests and people from Kalumburu take tourists out to these caves now. They are one of the oldest known rock paintings in Australia – or even the world.
KALUMBURU Wandjina (detail) 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas :: 48
KALUMBURU Bradshaw Paintings (detail) 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas :: 49
Yallabidi Dreaming (detail) 52 x 68cm Acrylic on canvas
I thought about tracking emus down, for this painting. I was thinking of the emus lifestyle, how they think. Follow their tracks, see their nest, if you get them before they hatch. If they’re left, you see the next cycle, the next generation. More or less the cycle of life that we all got, plants, animals, humans. That’s where I got the idea for this painting, seeing the emu in the sky – which tells you it’s time to go and find eggs.
Rugin Gorge 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas
That’s a place called Crocodile Gorge – my step father who brought me up – that’s his country now. He told me about that hill there – that’s the two hills on top – (called Crocodile Egg) that’s why the place is called Crocodile Hole. On this side hill (left) one old fella fell down from that and died – he was hunting kangaroo. The white circle there is the barramundi scale dreaming. It’s the scale that came off the barramundi – it flicked off when he jumped out of the water (at Spear Gorge) – and it landed there in that spot – it hit the rock in the diamond mine and straight back to Glenhill station – you can see that Barramundi at one place called Wild Dog from the road while you’re driving. There’s a story about that Barramundi on the other side – but it’s not on this side. I’ve been told these stories from my father in law and I’ve seen that country – I used to work out there.
WARMUN Boab Tree 84 x 106cm Ochre on canvas
Back in the early days the white man made blackfellas chain up and treated them rough way. They was walking. Then they saw a big boab tree. White man told them to sit down to have tucker and sleep. When they were sleeping under the boab tree the white man poisoned all of them and they all died under the boab tree and white man grab all of them and put them all in the boab tree and burn them all. This place is outside of Warmun where the rivers runs together and you can see the boab tree on the side of the road so people from communities they put a graveyard to protect the sacred place.
In Aboriginal legend the dreamtime spirit Mundung speared a giant kangaroo which leapt over Weld Range and landed at Wilgie Mia. The injured giant kangaroo travelled east through the Murchison forming red ochre deposits where he bled. One ochre deposit was made at twin peaks station and another at Mt Barloweerie (Pia) and the final one at Wilgie Mia.
In its death throes the giant kangaroo dug a cave into which its blood spilt. The blood became the red ochre and bile from the animalâ€™s liver became the yellow and green ochre which can also be found at the cave. Wilgie Mia is regarded as one of the most important Aboriginal sites in Western Australia.
How Red Ochre was Made (detail) 49 x 51cm Acrylic on canvas Murchison
In the dreamtime there were five brothers. They were very close to each other â€“ one of their elders got very jealous over the brothers because they had beautiful wives. The five brothers were also very cunning and very sharp hunters and they used to look after their families. Until all the elders knew about their knowledge about hunting, thatâ€™s when the elders got jealous and decided to split them up and turn them into five different animals - the Eagle, Wombat, Emu, Marlu (Kangaroo) and the Blue Tongue Lizard.
Wijidt (Wedge Tail Eagle) 100 x 99cm Acrylic on canvas
This country is right on the border of Western Australia and Northern Territory. There is a swamp, Yenmi. The curvy lines represent the sand hills (like a snake’s skin) and the blue is where the swamp has deep water. The people who live there they speak Martujarra and Kukajarra. There was one old woman there and there were thorny devils. And the old woman was walking by herself, sitting in the shade and a tiny devil was following her where she walked. And she saw three kangaroos sitting there and she was worrying for where the water was so she followed the kangaroo tracks to get her there. And they have found this old woman’s tracks all over this land, looking for water. They asked this old lady where she came from – because she came from the wrong area, Nununtjarra. And after they were having a meeting and they told the young men to take the woman back to her country. So one young man did and he ended up marrying the old woman’s daughter, and had a son. And the mother and father were
worrying for their son. So they followed the tracks of the old lady and their son – they saw them dancing and the old man said to the other fella – ‘These people can’t understand your language’ so they made their son and his new wife come back with them. And his wife’s family got jealous – saying you shouldn’t take the women out of this country – they were worried. So they went to Lake Mackay – back home. They saw the water hole – but the women’s family had made the water strange because they were jealous that their daughter had been taken. So they had a big sorry meeting – the woman’s and the man’s families. They gave them spears, boomerangs – and the women’s family got speared through the leg for making the water funny. So they couldn’t go near to them – this was a long time ago. Today this business has all finished, but some of the old people are still fighting. They get jealous from painting too.
The other side of Lake Mackay (detail) 46 x 46cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
The three sisters
The Three Sisters 40 x 49cm Acrylic on canvas
This is the story of three sisters. They went to different places to look for bush tucker. One stops (lives) in Queensland, one stops in the Northern Territory and one stops in Western Australia. The one in Western Australia and the one in the Northern Territory finds the Bardi (witchety) grub and the honey ant to eat. The one in Queensland finds the Bardi grub. They all came back to the Northern Territory to see their mother and father, brothers and sisters and their three husbands. It was a long journey for them to get back home. :: 63
The didgeridoo is a traditional Aboriginal instrument. If you look closely you can see the spirit of this man’s ancestors looking down on him while he plays.
I wanted to paint this picture to show how beautiful the Australian outback is – it’s a place that I would like to visit one day.
Didgeridoo Man 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas
KALGOORLIE Australian Outback 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas
Chinamen Garden Community 69 x 96cm Ochre on canvas
Dimensions of Experience HAMISH MORGAN
‘You can feel it. Keep an open mind, let the country come to you. When I go out bush, I can read the country, I know the stories. When I paint: I’m in there, that country, walkin’ along.’ ARTIST, GREENOUGH REGIONAL PRISON
The Greenough Regional Prison is concealed, yet obviously part of the Geraldton community. We want to think of the prison as ‘other’, as ‘outside’, as not really part of Geraldton. Perhaps too we’d rather forget the Greenough Regional Prison, and prisons in general, really exist. The rates of Aboriginal incarceration are concealed from our society – a society that does not really know what to believe, what to do, and that perhaps does not really want to know. Between 2000 and 2008 the imprisonment rate for Indigenous Australians increased 34.5 percent. This means that in 2008 Indigenous Australians were 17 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians1. As Krieg has identified in her article on the social impacts of Indigenous imprisonment, this means ‘that up to a quarter of young Indigenous men have direct involvement with correctional services each year.’2 The Greenough Regional Prison becomes the holding place for many Indigenous men from across Western Australia. It becomes the kind of melting pot – where the complex individual stories merge into one awfully common theme of Indigenous over-representation in jail. But what this exhibition reveals is that while the imprisonment of Indigenous men is all too commonplace – and because of this accepted as ‘normal’ – the
individual stories of these men are far from onedimensional. What these artworks tell is part of the story of these men’s lives, expressed through the act of painting. Seeing the unseen For this artist from Crocodile Hole near Halls Creek, inspiration comes through connectedness to the stories embedded in the country: to paint it is to be literally there. The artist does not create the narrative as such, but rather re-tells it through colour, form and pattern; he speaks it, if you will, through visual representation. In this way his painting is not simply about the country, but embodies some of its essence, contains some of its sacred and material power. Perhaps it is this capturing of the real that gives the artworks collected in this exhibition power, but there is also something eternal and some kind of morality contained in these works as well. An artist from Chinamen Garden near Halls Creek, commenting on his work and inspiration explains: ‘The painting we do in here, it’s not muck around. Before I begin, I ring the old people back home and ask about a painting I am doing. We got to get permission to do it, before we start.’
And so the act of painting in prison is not a way to simply use up ‘time’ it is a chance to show commitment to the custodianship of one’s own and one’s community’s stories, traditions and laws. An ethical commitment moreover, that does not simply stop with one’s physical separation from country and kin. There are complex ‘hidden’ obligations and responsibilities that not only underlay the creation of these artworks, but also give these painting considerable depth, complexity and presence. Layers of history, story, presence and experience cohere both within and beyond the surface of these works, calling back to the artists’ communities – to the old people – as much as seeking out new non-Indigenous audiences in Geraldton and further afield. They seek out a kind of accountability or community. The artworks are not the self-absorbed and angry works we might suspect from incarcerated men, rather they look out, back to the country, to the community and to the narratives that ultimately sustain these artists identities, their past and their future. Their artwork is not throw-away, muck around, but says something true, real and important. They invite community precisely because they are not inward looking, rather they look outward and share narratives of substance and worth. The artist from Crocodile Hole explains: ‘My grandmother Shirley, she said it’s alright that I can paint that country, ‘cause she walked all that country from the Bungle Bungles to Alice Downs. All my paintings tell that story. The kangaroo dreaming, that’s my father’s father. My grandmother was telling me, that’s where she was born - and all her sisters. Between Bungle Bungles and Alice Downs, when it comes to Springvale River, all the little rivers connect. We all from that one river, we all connected through that river, it connects all the country. It’s like a family tree. All my family run along that river, Springvale River, Alice Downs all through there…When you do a painting you got to feel connected to that country , when you do it, you connect, like this river that joins all the family together.’ Thus, we have profound story lines of connection, belonging, the sacred and the eternal forming
with the familial and elemental, something that the above artist uses to frame and vitiate all his paintings: his paintings tell that story. When he paints, he is literally gone, into his country, reliving his family connection. Considering this, it makes sense that he cannot simply leave this alone, nor forget its importance, nor perhaps desist from expressing it to others who make the time and space to hear it. Given the chance, and what a paradox that this chance comes in prison – almost when it is too late – these artists narrate the things that truly matter to them, and perhaps to us all as well. But the profound and important can also register on more disturbing levels. The other, shadowy side of what happened in country is also part of the full story of belonging and community. For an artist from Halls Creek, painting from Greenough Regional Prison, the terror of massacres cannot be silenced in his country, precisely because it happened and because the residues and echoes of that event remain in the country, in memory and in collective experience. As he explains: ‘I grew up in Halls Creek, grew up with my grandfather, he grew me up and told me all the stories. Next painting I’ll do is one about my country, about a massacre that happened. People were camping out, having a good time. A big mob of whitefellas came up. One person got away; he was acting dead amongst all the other dead people. When the whitefella went away he got up and ran. He went to the other side of the creek up the hill and made a camp. He stayed there, the whitefellas tried to smoke him out. But he was gone, heading for the bush to the west, trying to warn his people. It was too late, he saw a big dark smoke on the horizon, those whitefellas had got there before him, they slaughtered his family out there, burned them alive. They caught up with him later. There is a ceremony for it. I wrote a song for it. ‘ This artist is unprepared to forget, he does not allow things to be hidden. Taking on the responsibility not to forget, not to cover up, is not an easy thing to take on. To fully embody the past means being
upfront about all the events that have shaped the past, including those that are difficult to tell. And this makes a claim on us all, a claim for accountability and responsibility, a claim, even, for shared community. Yet the ‘culture of forgetting’ – the active process of refusing to remember and recognise past injustices and their ongoing consequence – enables dominant Australia to exist in a kind of conscious amnesia where the history of dispossession, forced removal and the destruction of sacred and familial landscapes is rendered invisible and so not really there. 3 Like it never really happened, like there is no tension there written and held in the landscape and in collective consciousness. But events according to Aboriginal worldviews are embedded in country, in place, they don’t go away, they stand against the ‘tide of history’. 4 Those events – both sacred, profane, historical and contemporary – are held within the country, like they have sculptured and given the country its form and narrative. Ultimately, such events cannot be concealed or glossed over; they are part of the complex story inherent in place. To conceal them is to not see the country and its history for what it is, full of all sorts of multi-layered dimensions, both difficult and empowering truths. There is a kind of openness and honesty in these works that sees the country and what it holds – history, identity, belonging, community – exactly for what it is: multilayered dimensions that do not prescribe judgement but rather an open and sentient mind. Again, this kind vision from a group of prisoners is a paradox, something that confounds immediate explanation. Concealing and revealing country When I was sitting down with an artist at Greenough Regional Prison talking about his artwork, he pointed out to me that the development of the desert ‘dot’ style painting in Papunya in the late 1970s was actually a way for senior men and women to partially conceal
Right: Yarrunga, (detail) 57 x 73cm Acrylic on canvas Halls Creek â€˜This painting is about my country, about a massacre that happened. People were camping out, having a good time. One person got away, he was acting dead amongst all the other dead people. When the whitefella went away he got up and ran. He went to the other side of the creek up the hill and made a camp. He stayed there, the whitefellas tried to smoke him out. But he was gone, heading for the bush to the west, trying to warn his people. It was too late, he saw a big dark smoke on the horizon, those whitefellas had got there before him, they slaughtered his family out there, burned them alive. They caught up with him later. There is a ceremony for it. I wrote a song for it.â€™ Artist, Greenough Regional Prison
Above: Emu and Kangaroo (Yalabidi and Malu) 106 x 34cm (rotated) Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
the representation of sacred or restricted motifs beneath the surface of dots.5 The dot became a way to partially conceal yet partially reveal sacred and powerful knowledge. The dot illuminated the power yet restricted access to the sacred dimension of ngurra or ‘country’. Through this process of revelation whilst withholding, these avant-garde desert painters forced a nation and the world to be witness to the presence of the invisible and intangible world that underlies and vitiates the ‘immediate and physical world.’6 These early desert painters were important because they forced new ways of reading the Australian landscape, new ways of thinking about ‘country’, belonging and identity. The dot was a brilliant expression of the depth of Indigenous knowledge and connection, whilst also concealing the truly sacred dimensions of that knowledge from a non-Indigenous audience. A Jigalong artist gives us a sense of the complex layers and ‘texts’ that can be read through the dots, hatchings, lines and colours of his painting: ‘My mother’s story. She was one of four wives that travelled from her home country and place of birth,
Well 22 on the Canning Stock Route travelling east. Then she came back on the same track to Jigalong. I have painted her tracks travelling along the countryside camping from place to place. In the bottom you can see the story of the seven sisters. Today you will see the layout of the Jigalong community representing the seven sisters. In the middle on the right you can see the Tjukurrpa Dog Dreaming – which is the story that relates to this area.’￼ The painting is rich in story, dense with intrigue as we gain a hint of his mother’s travels before ‘coming in’. The artist recreates her journey but withholds the intimate details of her profound story. The artist then hints at two Tjukurrpa stories associated with Jigalong. He outlines these, giving us a sense of the way the epic travels of the Tjukurrpa ancestors created the country and its Laws, and how these are present in people’s daily lived reality and socio-spatial organisation. And so, as viewers of and participants in these painting, we see and we do not see. Things are revealed yet also concealed and because of this complexity of shared
and hidden knowledge the artworks demand a closer look, a second reading, a deeper evaluation. Yet these paintings are not simply ‘from another world’ they are also a mechanism of exchange that seeks to vitiate and communicate a shared sense of humanity that exists beneath the surface of things. For other artists involved in this exhibition moments of revelation are not so much for an audience but for the individual. The very act of painting in the Greenough Regional Prison art workshops has revealed talents that even the artists had formerly not seen. As an artist from Geraldton explains: ‘I only started painting since I been in the prison here. I was doing the cleaning in here, and I saw Helen taking the art class, so I thought I’d ask to see if I could give it a try for the exhibition…And that’s when I found the talent…Its really satisfying to see the finished product. I started painting on boxes in my cell, then I saw what was going on in here, so I started painting properly. When you see the finished product you are really proud, something you thought you couldn’t do, but there it
is in front of you, really good to do that. I’m putting more time into the paintings now, and the more time I put in the better the end product is, you know not a rushed job. It really takes your mind off being in here, doing painting, keeps you busy and focused.’ And for others, including this young artist from Kalgoorlie, the act of painting is not only about creativity, but about survival, diligence and selfworth: ‘You know I used to sketch as a kid, but the alcohol and violence took it away. But now it feels like the art is back. Stick with it, hopefully I’ll be right then. I taught myself. This is the only gift I got that is natural to me. Nobody even taught me. I got to keep it strong.’ Creativity is one way in which the artists in the Prison keep themselves strong and connected in a difficult and stressful environment. The men in the prison explained to me that being in prison
is a constant game: there are games between inmates and between inmates and warders who are responsible for the granting and removal of privileges. The attainment of small privileges for their cells, like a TV, access to cold water, a fan or canvas board and paint are hard won, and become important signifiers of individual autonomy and self choice in a highly regularised environment. However, my feeling is that the workshops run by Helen Ansell and empowered by the vision, persistence and enthusiasm of the artists is not a game, it is not about the attainment of small privileges nor minor freedoms. Helen and the artists open towards a much more empowering space where the truly significant and redemptive story of belonging, connection, creative vision and community responsibility are expressed, detailed and brought to bear in telling ways: something we all are witness to through viewing and engaging with the complex dimensions of these artworks.
Right: Mardu go Ngurra Australia gna (Our Home Australia) (detail) 48 x 67cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
CATALOGUE OF WORKS
Yallabidi Dreaming 52 x 68cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Ceremony Time 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Boab Tree 84 x 106cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Wijidt (Wedge Tail Eagle) 100 x 99cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
Yurumal – My Grandfather’s Country 85 x 86cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
Desert Rose 1002 x 62cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Canning Stock Route 71 x 41cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Song Lines 39 x 68cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
How Red Ochre was Made 49 x 51cm Acrylic on canvas Murchison
Stalk (Jaburu) Dreaming 91 x 122cm Ochre and acrylic on canvas Warmun
Boodura Story (detail) 86 x 86cm Acrylic on canvas Murchison
Chinamen Garden II 39 x 61cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Rudall River 90 x 31cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
My Mother’s Story 54 x 74cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Karlku (Big Hill) 40 x 57cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
Reminder of Home 46 x 44cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
Kangaroo Dreaming 57 x 70cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Chinamen Garden Community 69 x 96cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Barramundi 67 x 76cm Acrylic on canvas Lombadina
Yarrunga 57 x 73cm Acrylic on canvas Halls Creek
Handing Over the Tribal Law 48 x 60cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
My Grandfather 54 x 54cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
The Other Side of Lake Mackay 46 x 46cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
The Three Sisters 40 x 49cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Malu Tjukurppa (Kangaroo Dreaming) 63 x 80cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
Rain Dance 97 x 94cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
Travel 84 x 85cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Riwar 57 x 75cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Black Boy Country 65 x 40cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Emu Egg Season 46 x 71cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Lost 95 x 82cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
The Waitch 1002 x 62cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
Black Adder Snake Dreaming 38 x 61cm Acrylic on canvas Warmun
Kutjarra Bunka (Two Goannas) 40 x 61cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Mardu go Ngurra Australia gna (Our Home Australia) 48 x 67cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Blue Tongue 90 x103cm Ochre and acrylic on canvas Warmun
Turtle Dreaming 51 x 89cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
Mother Nature 80 x 95cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
The Rock Python 88 x 85cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
My Motherâ€™s Country 94 x 92cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Goadda 70 x 100cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Yarrunga Community 80 x 1002cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Mating Season 104.5 x 72cm Acrylic on canvas Northam
Dreaming of Eagle Hawk 53 x 78cm Acrylic on canvas Warmun
Milura 47 x 77cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Emu and Kangaroo (Yalabidi and Malu) 106 x 34cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Remember 92 x 123cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton/New Zealand
Desert People 42 x 55cm Acrylic on canvas Bililuna
Digging for Bardis 47 x 79cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Two Brolgas 62 x 99cm Acrylic on canvas Halls Creek
Honey Ants 48 x 59cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
Marlu (Kangaroo) 45 x 35cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Lost 38 x 70cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Dusk 39 x 88cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Cut Lines 74 x 74cm Acrylic on canvas Balgo
Desert Bush Tucker 50 x 60cm Acrylic on canvas Kununurra
Snake 35 x 45cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Yalabirri (Emu) 41 x 51cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Mating Season 59 x 1003cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Turtle Dreaming 47 x 80cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Wandjina 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Kalumburu
Bradshaw Paintings 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas Kalumburu
Time Changes 78 x 80cm Acrylic on canvas Leonora
Wildflowers 34 x 66cm Acrylic on canvas Halls Creek
The Gathering 69 x 79cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Dribble Creek 53 x 69cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Moving Camp 46 x 73cm Acrylic on canvas Murchison
Two Women Dreaming 56 x 86cm Acrylic on canvas Wankatjungka
One Man 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Leonora
Rugin Gorge 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Gunayunga (Emu Dreaming) 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas Warmun
Wati Kutjarra 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
Juline (Dog Dreaming) 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Warmun
Blue Tongue Dreaming 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Warmun
Hunting Tools 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Marra 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Pia 80 x100cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Cherabun Station 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Fitzroy Crossing
The Past 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Lost Generation 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Mating Season 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Northam
‘Ula Juda’ (Ayers Rock) 60 x 80cm Acrylic on canvas Walpiri, Katherine
Australian Outback 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Kalgoorlie
Favourite Bush Tucker 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Geraldton
Snake 30 x 30cm Acrylic on canvas Mt Magnet
Five Ngurra - Different Languages 37 x 78cm Acrylic on canvas Wiluna
Bungle Bungle 46 x 84cm Acrylic on canvas Warmun
The Sea Dragon 92 x 52cm Acrylic on canvas Maralinga
Didgeridoo Man 30 x 30cm Ochre on canvas Mt Magnet :: 85
Let the country come in was designed and developed by FORM and formally opened at the Geraldton Regional Gallery on September 9, 2010. From Lynda Dorrington, Executive Director of FORM FORM has worked in remote and regional Western Australia for many years and during this time we have come to know and respect many Aboriginal art centres and artists, from the most remote desert places through to coastal and urban communities. Our time in the Mid and North West regions of the state has revealed an incredible depth and variety of creative talent among Aboriginal artists and this talent is just beginning to be recognised as a collective arts movement of national significance. Our collaborative projects with artists from communities including Wiluna, Warmun, Roebourne, Port Hedland and Geraldton have, at their heart, a belief in the importance of quality, creativity and innovation in the artistic process. In turn we have seen the outcomes generated by this commitment to process bring about new pathways for equitable participation in the economic and audience opportunities associated with cultural and urban activation, and new ways to approach reconciliation, acceptance and awareness. :: 86
This exhibition and project have been made possible through the vision and support of the Department of Corrective Services, Trystan Kentish, program facilitator Helen Ansell, anthropologist Hamish Morgan and the artists – who remind us that talent can be found and nurtured in any place, and that the creative process is always one of mutual learning,sharing and respect.
the staging of an exhibition, affords people many and varied ways to express themselves when verbal communication alone can be felt to be inadequate or runs the risk of being misunderstood. The creation of these works has assisted in building self esteem via the development of new skills as well as providing a positive line of communication and expression.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, ABS cat. No. 4517.0, Canberra: ABS, 2008.
From James Davies, Director of the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery
Special thanks and congratulations go to all exhibiting artists, the arts development program team, FORM, The Department for Corrective Services and the Greenough Regional Prison for making this all possible. Especial thanks go to Helen Ansell for her hard work and for being the important liaison between all participants in the exhibition, including the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery.
4 This description was most famously used by Justice Olney to justify his rejection of the native-title claim of the Yorta Yorta people: ‘The tide of history has indeed washed away any real acknowledgment of their traditional laws and any real observance of their traditional customs.’ Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria (Federal Court of Australia, Olney J, December 18, 1998, unreported)  FCA 1606 at . From an Indigenous perspective, history is held in the country and cannot wash away.
The Geraldton Regional Art Gallery takes great pride in hosting the exhibition, Let the country come in. An understanding of (and appreciation for) the role the arts performs with respect to community health and wellbeing is critical when considering this exhibition. The arts consistently provide opportunities for people to assess and reassess the world around them, including how we interact as fellow human beings. We are fortunate that we live in a time where the positive role the arts plays in the rehabilitation process is not only receiving due appreciation but is also being supported financially and in principle. The significance of the works generated by this program goes beyond simple aesthetics. Active participation in the art making process, including
From Helen Ansell, mentor and facilitator of the Greenough Regional Prison arts program I would like to acknowledge the great team working within the Education Centre at Greenough Regional Prison – in particular Trystan Kentish and Charmaine Ware for all their support to enable this exhibition to happen, as well as the other tutors who are also achieving amazing outcomes in their different fields and the office staff who hold everything together.
2 Krieg, Anthea, ‘Aboriginal Incarceration: health and social impacts’, Medical Journal of Australia, 184(10): 534:536, 2006. 3 For research relating to the ‘culture of forgetting’ see Healy, Chris, Forgetting Aborigines, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2008.
5 See Barden, Geoffrey, Papunya Tula: Art of the Western Desert, Sydney: Tuttle Publishers, 1992. 6 Myers, F. Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines, Washington: Smithsonian Institute, 1986, p. 68. Myers’ work was useful in forming my thoughts on the role of ‘restricted’ and ‘open’ knowledge.
‘I tell the story at the end. It’s still naked. That’s how I think about it. You know the story can change as you go along. Something else might come up. You don’t want to rush it.’