Cultural alchemists

Consistently defying expectations, these artists are ever-changing in their expression.

At the heart of their practice is the relentless pursuit of individual creative expression that is also reflective of their unique cultures.

Yhonnie Scarce

Yhonnie Scarce, Death Zephyr 2017. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactor’s Group 2017. © Yhonnie Scarce

Yhonnie Scarce reflects on historical injustices, specifically the British nuclear weapons testing program at Maralinga. In manufacturing the 2000 individually hand-blown glass yams, she mimics the extreme heat generated at bomb sites during explosions.

Rona Panangka Rubuntja

Rona Panangka Rubuntja, Kwatja (water) in the Finke River 2019. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mollie Douglas Bequest Fund 2019. © Rona Panangka Rubuntja

Rona Panangka Rubuntja draws on memories and humour in her visual storytelling. The pots she makes are an exciting and imaginative form of art unique to Ntaria (Hermmansburg).

Nongirrna Marawili

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, Baratjala – lightning and the rock 2018. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors tour to Arnhem Land 2018. © Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, courtesy Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Art Centre

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili’s striking use of pink is a form of recycling – she recovers pigments from used printer toner cartridges. She paints descriptively, and although she disavows any sacred intent, echoes of culture persist.

Jonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones, blue poles 2004. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of ARTAND Australia 2015. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. © Jonathan Jones

Here, Jonathan Jones is interested in light and Aboriginal linework specific to south-eastern Australia. More broadly, with references to Pollock, Tuckson and Gordon Bennett, he critiques the appropriation of First Nations art by Western abstract artists.

Karla Dickens

Karla Dickens, Pound-for-Pound #6 2019. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by Wendy Whiteley and the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’ Group 2020. © Karla Dickens. Licensed by Copyright Agency

Karla Dickens uses found objects in her works to create immersive sensory experiences, with the old objects whispering to us their experiences of the past. From the installation A Dickensian Circus, these works celebrate the often-unknown Aboriginal performers of times gone by.

Gunyibi Gunambarr

Gunybi Ganambarr, Gapu 2017. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by Rob and Jane Woods 2017. © Gunybi Ganambarr

Never content to be restrained by convention, Gunybi Ganambarr repurposes discarded remnants from mining and building sites to consider how Country is owned, how it is shared, and how it is utilised.

Esme Timbery

Esme Timbery Sydney Harbour Bridge 2002. Art gallery of New South Wales, gift of Genevieve O’Callaghan 2010. © Esme Timbery

The subjects and objects of Sydney embraced by ‘La Per’ women shell artists, including Esme Timbery, speak to the region’s cultural realities and connection to Country. The Harbour Bridge became a popular motif for Timbery as a way of maintaining culture and providing buyers with an alternative understanding of the Sydney landscape.