Fresh vision

Wandjina the Rainmaker by Jemma Unghango 
Black Cockatoo by Roger Boona photos courtesy Waringarri Aboriginal Arts

NEW and emerging artists from the Kimberley offer a fresh interpretation of their cultural heritage in the exhibition Boonkaj.

Featuring more than 20 artists from two Aboriginal-owned art centres – Waringarri Aboriginal Arts and Kira Kiro Artists – the exhibition includes a diverse range of paintings, ceramics, engraved boab nuts, textiles and even a digital animation.

The exhibition is being held at Flux Gallery in the Perth CBD, and curator Sandra Murray says it’s a chance to showcase the next generation of talented artists from the Kimberely, who rarely get to exhibit in Perth.

“A number of the artists have close relatives in the exhibition,” Murray says.

“One to note is Delany Griffiths, a young artist, who is learning culture from her grandmother, renowned artist Peggy Griffiths, by re-interpreting Country and cultural knowledge through her ochre paintings and textile printing. 

“Delany is one of the rising stars in this exhibition with both her paintings and textiles a highlight. 

“Delany began painting in 2008 and has proven herself to be a highly skilled artist. 

“Her mother, Dora Griffiths, is also exhibiting her textile work alongside Delany. Dora is the Chair of Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Board and also an accomplished painter.”

Waringarri is the first wholly indigenous-owned art centre established in the Kimberley, and one of Australia’s oldest continuously operating art centres. 

It includes Kira Kiro Art Centre in Kalumburu on the north Kimberley coast.

Murray notes that having contributions from two different art centres in the region, highlights the subtle differences in the way culture and land are interpreted.

“Whilst the artists of Waringarri Aboriginal Arts concentrate on the landscape, bush medicine, bush tucker and Ngarrangarni (Dreamtime) law; the Kira Kiro artists often depict the Wandjina – a sacred ‘rain’ spirit and creator, the Gwion Gwion or Kira Kiro spirits, and other ‘cheeky’ spirits found in the rock art of the Kalumburu region,” she says.

“One predominant connecting theme of the two art communities is nature, it is integral to the thinking of the artists in Boonkaj, it is part of their Country.

“There is a deep spiritual and physical relationship with Country evident in these compelling art works. I was so impressed by the vitality of the artists, there is a prodigious amount of talent. 

“One striking feature to note is that unlike a number of other art centres, paintings from these two centres are created using traditional ochres to create strong, fresh colours, rather than modern acrylics”. 

The exhibition includes the Waringarri Textiles project, a social enterprise where aspiring artists create hand-stamped and screen-printed fabrics, providing a gateway to art through a non-traditional medium.

“Mentored by senior artists, Waringarri Textiles maintains cultural knowledge and enables artists to experiment with the way designs of bush plants and cultural stories are expressed,” Murray says. 

“Exploring new media keeps younger artists engaged and cements their relevance in a changing world.“

Boonkaj – emerging: art from the Kimberley is at the King Street Arts Centre, Wednesday – Saturday, from May 15 to June 26. 

For more info go to fluxartspace.com.au

By STEPHEN POLLOCK

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