02 November 2023
You are known for your use of ochre, which forms the primary material for your visual arts practice. Could you tell us about your connection to ochre and how you first came to work with this ancient, natural material in your art practice? Were you guided by anyone specific along the way?
We are intrinsically connected to country there is no separation. I’m always guided by our elders and have a deep connection to place, the landscape, and our mother, constantly observing and listening to her. Also, I am guided by these sentient beings who hold deep knowledge, significant energy, and story. Whilst acknowledging that our many Nations, Clans and family groups have different relationships to ochre. Having worked with water colour for many years it wasn’t until painting up my daughter who is a dancer that inspired me to explore more deeply the ochres that intrigued me from my childhood learnings from elders.
Your paintings speak to the natural environment and pay homage to your ancestral roots, could you talk to us about how you are called to begin a painting? What initially sparks an idea for a new artwork?
I’m lucky to spend a great deal of time on Country with my work, in NSW and remote NT. I do get inspired and have ‘ideas’ about what I’d like to paint but it’s the ochres themselves that speak… I always start with my bases, never mark out and just go in freehand with what I want to paint, and it always does its own thing, has its own truth and story to be told. They behave very differently as well, each piece and each colour has its own personality. I do feel like I’m just the medium of what my ancestors have to say.
You have collaborated with other artists in the past, the body of work, Ganuu created alongside Nickolla Clark comes to mind. Can you speak about the importance of collaboration and the sharing of ideas between artists?
Art is for sharing. I feel strongly about supporting and guiding our young and emerging artists especially if they are as strong in culture, talented and passionate as both Nickolla and Coedie McCarty are, whom did the short film accompanying Ganuu. It is part of gifting what I have received from many talented artists sharing their wisdom and time with me over the years. I also love to hold workshops and witness how others relate to our earth pigments and marvel at what comes through. Most of us (artists) tend to be locked up in our studios for weeks at a time so it is important to feel connected with our community.
How does caring for Country inform your work as an artist?
The health of our Lands, sea and sky is our responsibility, the continuing custodianship and passing that on, is part of our daily practice. Having worked in conservation for most of my life, Country leads my practice in every way, from the permission, materials, process, curation. I’m in constant communion with her. She does not lie and tells us exactly what is needed, we just need to listen. Country is my collaborator and I hope that people viewing my art can feel the importance of how precious and sacred Country is.
What advice would you have for an early career artist who is just starting out?
Lead from your heart, not your head. Having an art practice is a personal journey and presents differently to each of us. It involves many hours and hard work often in solitude. Try and not have expectations of how your art speaks to people and the art world. And remember, art is not art unless shared…