MEET THE ARTISTS
Meet some of our local Bourke Aboriginal Artists!
Sheldon is a Bourke artist descended from the Wangkumarra nation which has its traditional lands in the far North West of the NSW. Living and working in Bourke has provided opportunities for Sheldon to explore art, and through that, traditional culture.
“I started back when I was in school, painting in a standard non-Aboriginal way. Later on I stared painting Aboriginal art and the results made me follow that interest”
Once the creative spirit was awakened in Sheldon, he could not let it go. Quickly moving styles and exploring creative options until he found a style all of his own that he was comfortable with. Sheldon says that the spirit of invention and creativity runs deep in his family.
“My Grandmother used to do art and do interesting things like incorporate echidna quills and emu feathers into her art, I think that’s when I first got interested”
Sheldon now uses both styles to produce images, which describe contemporary modern painting styles with traditional symbolic techniques. In this way, and entirely new narrative is created through his work, which takes an age old traditional form, and brings it to life for a new audience.
(Describing a painting) “That’s the cod fish, and those symbols are Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia, those are the big waterholes. That’s important because those are the biggest towns for us along the river – that’s how we see them”
Sheldon displays and sells his work in Bourke and is happy to talk to visitors about his unique style, as well as his plans for the future, which include plenty of art, and lots of sharing.
“I’d just like to be able to keep painting, and maybe teach kids how I learned to paint the way that I do”
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“It’s in the blood I suppose”
Artist and mentor, Brian Smith uses this phrases a lot when talking about his practice. In his blood is Kunya ancestry from Cunnamulla vicinity, North of Murawarri.
Brian grew up in Bourke, with a number of artists in the family and attributes his style to them, as well as, contemporary artists but maintains that Kunya country and the stories passed down within his clan, are factors that greatly influence his work. While he often tries his hand at different styles, Brian says he always comes back to Aboriginal art.
Many of the men Brian teaches come from the Ngemba and Barkindji nation and have grown up on the opposite side of the Darling River to him. This, Brian believes is one of the reasons their work looks slightly different from his.
Brian’s interest in cultural heritage extends beyond the workshop and translates to crafting traditional tools, weapons and instruments, as well as, hunting and gathering traditional foods. With knowledge that has been passed down to him, he teaches younger indigenous men to do the same, but like their artistic practice, he believes they already got the natural intuition.
Brian was heavily involved in the development of the Bourke Aboriginal Art Gallery. Encouraging culture in the community comes naturally to Brian, in the same way art does to his students.
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Jamie Moore grew up in Bourke, and is known in the town for his skillful Aboriginal artworks. He’s a part of a number of community projects, hosts workshops on creating indigenous tools and paintings, and makes beautiful art in his own time.
With roots in the Kullilla tribe, from South West Queensland, and the Ngemba tribe, Jamie’s family have a rich cultural history. Jamie’s in-depth understanding of his heritage, particularly in relation to his art, came at his own volition: it wasn’t something he grew up with.
“As I got older, I wanted to explore and feel [what my Aboriginality] was all about”.
Jamie became interested in art during high school, after seeing work by some of his family members. What started out as doing paintings at school, evolved into travelling to towns across the region to learn new skills and techniques, and doing two courses in Aboriginal art.
Today, Jamie’s varied practice includes carving, painting, and replicating traditional artefacts, and his work can be found in homes, schools, galleries and murals around Bourke. With the help of colleague and fellow artist, Brian Smith and 2CUZ radio station, Jamie was able to establish himself as an artist in the community of Bourke.
For Jamie, learning about his cultural heritage is only half of his mission: the other half lies in passing that knowledge on.
“One of my passions is to learn more and teach more. We learn every day, and I continue to learn about culture and share that with young people”.
Jamie realises this passion through his work in alternative education at the local high school, and the numerous workshops he’s been involved with. In the future, however, he hopes to have made a business of teaching young people, and have his own space to do so.
Dwayne Edwards is a descendant of the Kunja people whose traditional land is around Cunnamulla, but he lives and works in Bourke. Dwayne’s art is a contemporary blend of traditional styles and new techniques. His work describes landscape and fauna, and is layered with meaning.
“I got taught about 10 years ago by Brian Smith, he got me started, and I just kept going from there”.
Working on a range of mediums including canvas, art-board, ochre paint and acrylic. Dwayne’s art hangs in local galleries in Bourke where is happy to talk to visitors about his work, and about his life.
“When I’m not doing anything I will stay at home and paint. I just got into it by trying to stay out of trouble, if I had time on my hands and was just doing nothing, then I would start to paint”.
Dwayne’s art has linkages to important places in the landscape. The communities of Bourke and Brewarrina are regularly featured through traditional symbols, and the radiating lines out from the river lines describe how important this resource has always been to Aboriginal people.
“I tell stories about traditional things, like hunting and fishing. I use traditional symbols that represent the communities along the river, and the river itself”.
Something of an entrepreneur, Dwayne saw an opportunity to create a gallery space in Bourke in a disused section of the Men’s Shed. In prime location near a popular tourist draw card, Dwayne displays his work and talks to travellers about his life, Bourke, and of course, his art.
“I saw that nothing was happening here so I just brought a painting down and sat it on a chair – it sold straight away so I just kept bringing paintings down here to brighten up the place – and they keep selling”.
Laine was born and grew up in Bourke. Being surrounded by older artists, in his family, he was inspired to paint by his father, Brian.
Coming from the Kunya group, his art relates to his country. Although he has a variety of interest, including sport, his art and music is what holds his attention.
A musician, as well as, an artist Laine spends most of his time either playing his guitar or painting.
When he paints he enjoys painting animals and particularly echidnas.
Jason, originally from Mandandanji country, in the Roma region, now lives and works in Bourke.
An artist who has worked mainly with wood, for over 30 years, he particularly enjoys using wood in its natural state, moulding it into items with flare.
Jason also carves emu eggs.
Wangkumarra / Yorta Yorta
Iona lives in Bourke. A Wangkumarra / Yorta Yorta girl, at age 8, she is already an artist. Having learnt to paint from her father, Sheldon Smith.
Iona says “he has also taught me how to tell our story through artwork”.