WA Day is a chance to celebrate everything that makes this state unique: our people, our lifestyle, our culture and our potential. Reflecting on our Aboriginal history and the diverse community that makes up this state, WA Day emphasises inclusion for everyone who has made, and continues to make, Western Australia their home. In this spirit, we’ve reached out to artists featured in AGWA’s WA Now series for a special selection of works from the State Art Collection. Since 2015, the Gallery’s WA Now space has showcased the diverse voices that comprise this State’s vibrant contemporary art scene. Together these artworks offer a thoughtful and wide-ranging view on what it means to live, and create art, in this part of the world.
Thomas Jeppe Door To A Farce, Farce To Adore 2010. Gouache on paper (diptych), 123.2 x 83.1 x 6.5 cm (each) (framed). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2011.
The play on the title symmetry and paired back graphic representation I love about this work. Besides resonating with my personal practice, Jeppe’s works have humour and a sense of the lighthearted, despite appearing stark and austere, they pick up on subtle messaging and deliver immediate visual punch. Disruptive, refreshing and clever are three adjectives that capture the intent behind Jeppe’s imagery.
Nyaparu (William) Gardiner Jamu (Grandfather) 2017. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 177 x 148.5 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2017. © Nyapura (William) Gardiner, 2016.
Nyaparu’s haunting paintings depict memories of his early life working on pastoral stations following the 1946 Pilbara Aboriginal Strike – a turning point for First Nations’ rights in this country. They therefore provide a powerful visual link to one of the most significant events in modern Western Australian history, but one with very little photographic documentation. In the context of WA Day, this portrait of his grandfather functions as a contemporary icon of heroic Western Australian Aboriginal masculinity.
Nathan Beard Rampai/Samniang/Ratana/Pornjit 2017. Digital print on Canson Baryta, Swarovski Elements, 35.5 x 48 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2017. © Nathan Beard.
This work by Nathan Beard has always felt like shards in my heart for the stories of homesickness and isolation felt by migrant mothers who left their families and everything familiar to begin new lives in Australia. There is love and there is happiness here, a home but not home. As time goes on the phone calls announce more funerals than birthdays. She is Nathan’s mum, she is my mum, she is the mother of so many. This work is both sadness and joy.
Peter (Bagingin) Newry Moonoomoorrem 2010. Natural ochre and pigments on canvas, 100 x 280 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the TomorrowFund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation 2010.
To be working as an artist in this part of the world is an immense privilege and learning experience. Moonoomoorrem by Peter Windarrwing Newry is redolent with deep time and knowledge of the land.
Pilar Mata Dupont The Embrace (이상적인 포옹) 2013. Single channel, high definition digital video, sound, colour, 5:04 minutes. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2014.
With The Embrace Pilar Mata Dupont animates Korean reuinification monuments through a rich tapestry of contemporary cultural influences (the melodramatic over-expression of K-Drama, the heightened confectionary of K-Pop visuals), and in doing so effortlessly subverts politically timely narratives of nationalism and myth-making. The work showcases a West Australian artist operating internationally with a conceptual and technical precision that makes me feel envious and overjoyed in equal measure.
Abdul Abdullah The disaffected by product of the colonies 2014. C-type print, 155 x 110 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 2015.
Abdul Abdullah’s body of works that deal with the depiction of the other within us shine a mirror back on the (Western) Australian ideas of our own identity; by choosing the mask from the Planet of the Apes it transcends (in our eyes) beyond notions of ethnicity and human-centric ideas of otherness and opens up a larger and universal conversation around personhood and identity.
Trevor Vickers Untitled 2012. Synthetic polymer on canvas, 75.5 x 106.5 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2014.
Much like his character, Trevor Vicker’s work has a quietly sustaining presence. There is no pressing need to show what it’s about or to seek approval. As I trust his expression of pure emotion, sensation and aesthetic intelligence, his work appears undisturbed by notions of time, place or meaning. And, just as one might experience music, it makes room for the mind to wander freely.
Tom Gibbons The End c1972. Synthetic polymer paint on panel, 114 cm (diameter). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 1993.
I love Tom Gibbon’s work The End, 1972. Part of the intrigue of the work is its ambiguity. Is it a West Australian sun setting into the Indian Ocean or a nuclear rising sun? Is it a zig-zag yellow river or a road? I choose to think of it as a road. Of the long drives up north to Karijini and Ningaloo Reef or down south to Denmark and Margaret River. Tom shared my love of cinema and literature to inform his work. His use of the text and font, reminiscent of the final credits of old movies, evokes all those Westerns I watched as a child. When it was painted in 1972 the Aboriginal flag was in its infancy, and not familiar as it is now. Tom actually based the colour scheme on his mum’s best Art Deco tea set. Today however, whether intentionally or not, the red, yellow and black colours imbue the work as a powerful statement of reconciliation. What is it the end of? The cessation of mistreatment and injustice of the indigenous peoples and a future that is inclusive and hopeful.
Thank you to all of our WA Now artists who took the time to reflect on these works from the State Collection. You can take a virtual tour of Tom Mùller’s current WA Now exhibition, MONOLITH SCORES on the exhibition page.