Unmasking the hidden history of colonial Western Australia

Christopher Pease, Reaper, 2015, 168x294cm - Copy
Christopher Pease b. 1969, Minang/Nyoongar Reaper 2015 (detail). Oil on muslin on board (42 panels), 168 x 294 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gallerysmith, Melbourne

From an early age Western Australian artist, Christopher Pease displayed a talent for the arts. His mother Sandra Hill and brother Ben Pushman are also well-known Noongar artists with works included in many significant collections including AGWA, Janet Holmes à Court Collection, Kerry Stokes Collection and the National Gallery of Australia.

Trained as a graphic designer, Pease dabbled in art throughout his studies and later while working in hospitality. It wasn’t until 1999 that he produced his first serious painting titled Noongar Dreaming. This painting depicts Australian Rules football great Graham “Polly” Farmer’s nephew Peter Farmer standing on the Perth freeway which bears Polly’s name.

Another significant piece of artwork by Christopher Pease titled Reaper is currently on display in AGWA’s WA Journey Gallery as part of the Foundation’s annual appeal. Made up of 42 panels, this impressive artwork relays an important message about colonial Western Australia and its darker history.

AGWA’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Carly Lane hosted a live Q+A with Christopher about his work.

 Artist Christopher Pease with AGWA’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Carly Lane. 

Carly Lane: So, Reaper; what is it about? In twenty-five words or less.

 Christopher Pease: In twenty – I don’t know if I can do that. When you’re an artist you find yourself looking back a lot. When you’re a Noongar artist, you’re always looking back. The first references came from my family; my mum, my aunties who would tell stories. After that, you look at the artwork that maybe other people don’t. Like Revel Cooper, I love his work. Then I was going into the museum archives, looking at artefacts and for Noongar iconography specifically, to find a Noongar visual aesthetic. I was trying to build my own visual language and then I stumbled across the Louis de Sainson prints.

Carly Lane: Who is Louis de Sainson?

Christopher Pease: He was a French watercolourist and draughtsman on the ship Astrolabe which sailed down to Albany in 1827 for a couple of months, and he did some really interesting stuff. There was a lot of early colonial artists that did work that I kind of was interested in because there was no photography and there is this translation that occurs. So, the drawings are made here, and then they go back to London where they’re turned into an aquatint, an etching – a lithograph and so there are sometimes weird things that happen in the translation. You don’t know exactly what’s real, and what’s accurate and what’s not accurate, so I’ve seen a lot of kind of questionable things. Robert Dale’s piece was the big one.

Carly Lane: Who is Robert Dale?

Christopher Pease: Robert Dale was a British Lieutenant who in 1829 arrived at the Derbarl Yerrigan (the Swan River) on the HMS Sulphur, and he ended up being the assistant surveyor to John Septimus Roe. He did a lot of surveying and was involved in projects all throughout Perth.

Carly Lane: He was about 19,

Christopher Pease: Yes

Carly Lane: But had already built up this skillset

Christopher Pease: Yeah, his skills were amazing. In 1832 he was in Albany, from January to May and during this time he wrote the account of King George’s Sound and did a series of sketches on top of this hill looking south overlooking King George’s Sound, and that was a panorama. The original panorama is three metres long, it’s a really beautiful lithograph – coloured lithograph – and I wanted to tackle that for years, like really early on, but I just didn’t feel confident in doing it. Finally, a couple of years ago, maybe four years ago now, I thought “That’s it, I’m going to tackle this work.”

Carly Lane: I feel like there’s a bit of déjà vu, because I do want to tell the audiences that we recently had the panorama that Robert Dale drew, and Robert Havell printed up in the Botanical: Beauty and Peril exhibition, and there was another work by artist Sohan Ariel Hayes that was a response to that print that was in the show as well.

Christopher Pease: Yeah. So, Robert Dale, at the same time that he was down in Albany, so was Yagan. Yagan was a cultural warrior here in Whadjuk territory and at the same time, the grants were being opened up in Perth. You’ve got private land ownership happening on the Derbarl Yerrigan, on the Swan River. There was an odd series of events that led to Yagan killing William Gaze. Yagan was caught and sentenced to death, but an outspoken settler named Robert Lyon convinced the judge to send him to Carnac Island instead. He ended up going to Carnac Island and then he escaped by boat back to the mainland. He later appeared at Lake Monger, doing Gidjee (spear) demonstrations, throwing, dancing, and also, in the Perth Botanical Gardens he was involved in events as well, so he was kind of given this kind of unspoken pardon, I guess.

Carly Lane: Julie Dowling, her painting titled Yagan 2016, talks about that event or, you know, it depicts the event at Lake Monger where he was throwing spears.

Christopher Pease: Yeah, yeah, they – they were, you know, throwing targets. You know and there’s a big article in the Perth Gazette where they remarked how amazing he was – Yagan was – his prowess in throwing, you know, weapons.

Carly Lane: From what I understand about your most recent exhibition Minang Boodjar, it was a series of six paintings that all looked at King George Sound, and the Dale and Havell Panorama.

Christopher Pease: Reaper recreates the first part of the panorama and there’s a lot of interesting things happening in it. And there’s a lot of the things Robert Dale depicts in the panorama that is quite accurate. In the background, so you can see in the top right prescribed burning that was happening, so yeah there was a lot of prescribed burning. We can see in other parts – in the painting – there was possum hunting. So, some of the things that he was depicting were quite accurate. What happened was in 1833, Yagan was caught trespassing up where I used to live up in Swan Valley near Ellenbrook. He was caught trespassing and he was shot by two brothers, beheaded, and his head was put in a tree and smoked. Robert Dale ended up acquiring the head and in 1834 he went back to London where he looked to make a deal for Yagan’s head. It was during this time he met Thomas Pettigrew, who was a surgeon working in London. He was an antiquarian and he made a deal with Robert Dale for Yagan’s head. Pettigrew would host dinner parties in his home and after dinner, he would display his curiosities to his guests and Yagan’s head was part of that. As a souvenir, each guest was also given a print of Robert Dale’s panorama.

Apart from the back story, there’s obviously the lines in the painting that’s actually the real map of the exact area where the drawings took place and that relates back to Robert’s Dales work as a cartographer and surveyor.  I decided to divide it up to represent the cutting up the land and putting up boundaries. The reaper is the reference to death and if you look at tarot cards it also means change which is quite significant for that period as well. It was a fitting image that works well with what was happening at the time.

Reaper is currently on loan and we are asking for your help to give it a permanent home in the State Collection. Find out here

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Donate by contacting our Foundation office on 08 9492 6761 or email foundation@artgallery.wa.gov.au

Human Figure, Myths and Politics – Curator Insights with Dunja Rmandić

Presenting works from 1970 to today, the AGWA Contemporary collection reveals the wide span of contemporary art practice with its diverse range of media, themes and identities. A recent collection display curated by AGWA Associate Curator of 21st Century Arts Dunja Rmandić gives particular emphasis to the human figure as a conduit of symbols, hero status, myths, cultural references, fantasies and stereotypes across different cultures. While the majority of works feature the human figure in one way or another, a recurring theme sees the subject’s eyes or faces obscured, masked or otherwise turned away, echoing the complexity of identity politics. Read on for Rmandić’s insights on a number of the display’s key works.

Christian Thompson – We Bury Our Own Series

Christian Thompson Down Under World [from the We bury our own series] 2012. C-type print, 98 x 98 cm each. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through The Leah Jane Cohen Bequest, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2015. © Christian Thompson, 2012.
Based on a research project at the Pitt-Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford, Christian Thompson’s We Bury Our Own series looks at ritual practice and the possibilities offered by art for a kind of spiritual—if not physical—repatriation.

Thompson is very mindful of the politics and the semiotics of the gaze and in this series he positions non-Indigenous cultural materials and references into a pool of spirituality and ritual, playing with the ideas of heritage, originality and history

Abdul Abdullah – Siege and Homeland Series

Abdul Abdullah The disaffected by product of the colonies 2014. C-type print on aluminium, 155 x 110 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 2015.

Abdul Abdullah’s provocative Siege series features the artist wearing a mask from the most recent Planet Of The Apes film as a potent symbol of ‘Otherness’ and cultural displacement. Abdullah explicitly engages with politics in his practice and has spoken about how the September 11th attacks in particular have influenced his identity as an artist.

“[Abdullah] sees his brother, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, as being an artist of the pre-September 11th period and himself as an artist of the post-September 11th period. He was a teenager at that moment, and everything changed for him. Overnight, young Muslim men were seen as terrorists, as a threat, as the quintessential ‘Other.’ When you are a minority, and regardless of who you feel you are, your identity can be determined by external factors, with no control over those perceptions and the ways that you are defined and categorized, and they were for Muslim men all around the globe and continue to be for minorities.”

Abdul Abdullah Aussie icons (Kylie, Elle and Lleyton) 2013. Oil on canvas, 91 x 91 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 2015.

Taken from Abdul Abdullah’s 2013 series Homeland, the balaclava-clad figure we see in Aussie Icons is a ‘composite face,’ featuring one eye each of Kylie Minogue and Elle MacPherson, alongside the characteristically vocal mouth of Lleyton Hewitt.

The unsettling image that results invites us to think differently about these individual’s place in the national psyche—and to what extent this is shaped by their own Anglo-Saxon heritage.

“By using white cultural references and signifiers of beauty we’re asked: what would you do if you were confronted by these people in masks? We look at things differently when it’s white people underneath the masks, but they could still be robbing your home.”

Khadim Ali – Fragmented Memories series

Gertrude Contemporary - Khadim Ali - Fragmented Memories - individual shots-022
Khadim Ali Untitled 1 [from the Fragmented memories series] 2017-2018. Gouache, gold leaf and ink, 170 x 214.5 cm (framed, nine individual components). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of western Australia. Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2019.
Ali grew up hearing from his grandfather the recitation of the Book of Kings (Shahnama), a late 10th century epic poem composed by Firdousi that marks the beginning of modern Persian language. The poem recounts the virtuosity and shortcomings of kings from the beginning of time to the advent of Islam but also of the powerful forces beyond them, epitomised by the divs or daemons. Reflecting on the way his people, the Hazara, have been treated and persecuted since the 1920s, Ali has used the divs from the miniature paintings illustrating the epic as an allegory of the Hazara.

“There are layers of histories with people and countries that we in the West tend to skim over, especially in the media. Afghanistan after September 11, for example, is seen as a very two-dimensional space: a space ravaged by war and difficult people. It’s a simple formula of good versus evil, us and them, that helps dehumanise and desensitise. I think for a lot of people who come from countries where conflict has occurred, seeing that conflict portrayed as two dimensional is a very painful thing. We don’t see the beautiful things that happen in Afghanistan, or hear the success stories; or the stories of people not wanting any kind of war. And we don’t consider that people from those places value beauty, history and tradition the way we do; Ali’s works speaks to all these sentiments.”

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah – Big Moon

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah Big Moon 2015. Black stain, pencil, ply, 75 x 75 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 2015

Positioned above the display like the awe-inspiring ‘super moons’ that can be seen when the Earth’s tilt makes them appear low in the sky, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah’s Big Moon brings a sense of universality to the collection of works below it, whilst also carrying its own highly specific cultural meaning.

“The moon by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah is referencing the month of Ramadan and for him the full moon represents the halfway point where, as a child, all he had to do was get through another two weeks. What I really love is that he connects the cultural, religious and scientific elements by showing the moon as a celestial object which we all imbue with meaning—a real thing in the universe as opposed to a dreamy kind of cultural symbol.”

Harnessing the moon’s cross-cultural significance in this way, its prominence in the space works to unify and balance the disparate and often opposing identities featured in this striking collection of works.


Read more about the AGWA Contemporary collection here. This collection display runs until February 2020.

Rewinding the Panorama – Interview with Artist Sohan Ariel Hayes

Currently showing at the Art Gallery of WA, The Botanical: Beauty and Peril exhibition brings together works from the State Art Collection and that of Janet Holmes à Court in a wide-ranging, and often bracing look at representations of the Australian landscape.

Among the works on display is the striking video piece Panoramic View of Albany (Kinjarling), The Place of Rain (2019), by Perth-based media artist Sohan Ariel Hayes, in which he reinterprets an 1834 panoramic etching of Albany by British surveyor Robert Dale.

This reinterpretation of a perhaps notorious work in the exhibition – the etching is notable not just for its panoramic format but also the gruesome fact that it was first exhibited in London alongside the decapitated head of Noongar leader Yagan – prompted extensive research into the social and environmental history of the original print.

Read on for an interview with Sohan Hayes in which he shares his insights on a number of concerns and themes raised in his work.

Perth Media Artist Sohan Ariel Hayes with his work Panoramic View of Albany (Kinjarling), The Place of Rain (2019)

Working with archival materials has been a key part of your practice for some time now. What was it about this Robert Dale etching in particular that captured your interest?

The panoramic format first grabbed my attention – I can’t think of any other panoramic images done in Western Australia before 1900, so it’s kind of unusual. Then there are these striking tableaux of Menang people and soldiers across the foreground of the view. From all the research that we’ve gathered, the view appears to be nineteenth century real estate propaganda. I mean it looks quite beautiful – it’s a picturesque image of Albany a few years after settlement – but actually its purpose was to sell something. It’s advertising a land opportunity and was a powerful vision that attracted investors to the Swan River enterprise. In the act of doing so the work becomes a story about dispossession: the stripping of the rights of the Menang people without their knowing or consent.

Can you tell me a bit more about the research process that went into developing this work, and how you drew out the ‘invisible histories’ in the original?

This work has also been reimagined by other Western Australian artists, Christopher Pease and Gregory Pryor, so those works feed into the dialogue around this one. A key link has been conversations with (Menang Noongar Elder) Lynette Knapp and (WA botanist) Stephen Hopper. Stephen Hopper had actually just done a couple of lectures on the fact and fiction of the Dale panorama. So I went and spent some time with the two of them, using Stephen’s scientific background and Lynette’s Menang/Noongar knowledge.  And we just did these passes across the painting and all of this detail came out of that. Obviously we can’t include all of that detail, so there’s this emotional, intuitive response which comes out in the work; a simple shift from day to night, from summer to winter storm, this rain like tears when these monsters begin to appear.

With this work being specifically commissioned for the exhibition, was there any sense of responding to AGWA as a historical and cultural site itself?

Good question. Dale’s print has been shown regularly in the past by AGWA, but never alongside the descriptive pamphlet by Dale which was originally distributed with the print and an illustration of the head of Noongar warrior Yagan. By placing this new work next to the original print, the intention is to trigger a dialogue between the two images. Once you’ve seen the new work, I don’t think you can ever look at the original print in the same way again.

SAH Panoramic View of Albany (Kinjarling)
𝐒𝐨𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐀𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐥 𝐇𝐚𝐲𝐞𝐬⁣
Panoramic View of Albany (Kinjarling), The Place of Rain 2019 ⁣
Advisors: Lynette Knapp (Menang Noongar) and Prof. Stephen Hopper AC⁣
three channel digital video colour⁣
5760px x 1080px, 25fps, 2.1 sound, 10’08” minutes edition: 1 of 3⁣
Commissioned for the Janet Holmes à Court Collection

The depiction of a numbat in the mouth of a feral cat is a striking image. How does this representation of invasive species define the work as a whole?

Once The Botanical co-curator Laetitia Wilson and I got talking about how there’s an invading species which is the Europeans, at the same time they are also bringing along other invasive species – rats and cats and rabbits and so on. So we started to play with images of those invasive species becoming feral and all the killing that has resulted and continues as we speak, every night and day. The fat cat is a monstrous image and, as a phrase, often represents someone who’s got too much wealth and has become gluttonous.

The work shows a huge storm sweeping the landscape, which then dies away with clear skies returning as the video loops. Does this hint at a sense of hope for how we might approach these issues differently in the future?

This was an idea that came from discussions with Kingsley Reeve who created the sound track for the work. There is a connection with the moving panorama of the mid-nineteenth century which we mimic digitally here – where they literally used to rewind the painting on a scrolling mechanism to restart it – and so we tried to rewind sound and image and found the effect mesmerising. The result is that the work doesn’t really have a start or end – it just keeps oscillating. It suggests a potential for change. In connection with the environment now, if we don’t change course, there is a great storm coming. Or are we already in it?

How do you think the colonial and conquest-oriented mentality represented in Dale’s etching links to wider environmental issues we are faced with today?

This whole capitalist expansion in the 19th century was, in part, a great mechanism of turning nature into profit at zero cost. There was the technology and finances to take advantage of the so-called ‘land opportunity’ here in this country and convert it into profit.  I think it’s really important to look back and understand that mechanism, to understand those it benefited and those it dispossessed. After all this is not something that was done once – the engine’s been running rampant repeating the cycle of dispossession all over the entire globe and now it threatens to cost us the earth.

What role do you think art and artists have in bringing public attention to the kinds of environmental issues that are highlighted in the exhibition?

I think as artists we’ve got a responsibility to help tell stories – to make them personal. My good friend, Anna Kosky, who puts together Writer’s Week for the Perth Festival, said she was at a conference on climate change earlier this year and one of the key scientists said that they’ve done all they can, now it’s up to the artists to tell the stories. That’s a big ask, but I think we can help shape a vision, to help shed light on reality, to encourage deep thinking and sustained action.


The Botanical: Beauty and Peril runs until 4 November.

The Botanical in Peril – Young Voices on Climate Change

This month, as part of our AGWA Pulse program, the Art Gallery of WA was the setting for an inspiring and thought-provoking panel discussion on climate change. Featuring young climate activists ranging in age from 16 to 23, these young voices brought clarity and urgency to the immense challenges facing our planet today. Here, they share their thoughts on the kinds of actions we can take – both large and small – to set the world on a different path.

climate change
How Do We Save the World? Climate Change Panel Discussion at AGWA

Makaela Rowe-Fox


I am sixteen years old and an organiser for the School Strike 4 Climate movement. I participate in national and state calls, outreach to groups, unions and schools, and I have spoken/chanted/occupied at the major March 15 and May 3 strikes earlier this year.

Why do I strike and organise these events? Because I want a future on this planet. We are living in a climate crisis. Already we are experiencing extreme changes to weather conditions with unprecedented droughts, floods and other natural disasters across the planet. We cannot wait until the effects of what’s occurring now are visible from our kitchen windows – we must act as pre-emptively as is still possible to minimise the effects of climate change. This means compelling the government to abandon fossil fuels, invest in 100% renewable energy NOW and to draw down carbon through intensive reforestation.

I am privileged to be able to be an artist and performer. I dance with Co3 – the flagship contemporary dance company in WA – and also act with the Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company. Art allows us to view the world in creative and critical ways. We can see this through AGWA’s exhibition, The Botanical: Beauty and Peril, which showcases work that discusses the climate crisis.

The phrase “business as usual = extinction” applies to artists as much as anyone else. We can’t rely on people to take up our calls for change. We need to be the ones taking action alongside everyone else. I am currently involved in organising the September 20 action which is a global strike: not just students, but everybody. It is expected to be the biggest collective human action this planet have ever seen.

Rachel Rainey

67075722_2109189282526527_9951340440584192_croppedA lot of people find climate change an overwhelming issue and feel like there’s nothing that they can do that will make a real difference in combatting it. I would like to encourage those people to see the film 2040 – it really helps to view the climate crisis from a solution-based perspective and provides a lot of suggestions on how you can help join the fight.

While you’re waiting to see the film, try changing your search engine to Ecosia (which plants one tree for every 45 searches), and changing your super fund to Future Super (zero investments in fossil fuels and financial performance in the top quartile of Australian super funds) – all it takes to switch is ten minutes and your tax file number.

It is really exciting and empowering to see so much community support behind climate action, to have a platform for youth voices to speak on the subject, and to have people truly listen and engage with these young people.

climate change2
The panellists discussed a wide range of topics related to the climate crisis.

Chelsea Andrews

Climate protest and activism are good, but I think especially in this day and age it’s not going to be enough to make change. With the political right on the rise, I think it’s only making people angrier. Just shouting at our government isn’t going to make action happen. Potentially more helpful ways include meeting with local MPS to discuss climate and how they can help, writing EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) submissions or looking out for projects that ask for public comment.

What do I believe it will take to save the world? State and nations coming together to tackle this crisis. International policy has worked in the past, as we saw with the Montreal Protocol, which is now seeing the ozone layer repair itself! The Paris Climate Agreement isn’t strong; but it could be improved with more investment and learning from successful measures like the Montreal Protocol. The Paris Climate Agreement needs sanctions and realistic targets for anything to work.

Artists have a great place in climate change action, albeit secondary. They aren’t afraid to confront the world, and expose what their truths are. Art can be a very emotional thing and call many people to action. However, I think the issue is that its main audience is the privileged: once art can be enjoyed by all, I think a lot more good and empowerment can come from it.


Follow the work of these inspiring young people through organisations including School Strike 4 Climate, Millennium Kids and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Gathering a FLOCK of artists at AGWA

“Seedpods and Pastels” – A workshop from artist Esther McDowell/Yabini Kickett. Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

FLOCK is a monthly forum created by, and for, Perth independent artists as a regular space to gather, connect and engage with each other’s creative practices. This month, FLOCK took place at AGWA’s Education Studio, featuring Esther McDowell/Yabini Kickett, who recently launched her 6-month Artist Activation project at AGWA. AGWA is delighted to support this unique and important venture for Perth’s arts community. Read on for the FLOCK team’s reflections on the event.

Esther/Yabini McDowell demonstrating her charcoal-based works in AGWA’s Education Studio. Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

Gathering a FLOCK of artists at AGWA: FLOCK #12.

It was a warm, friendly event, with some familiar faces and many newcomers. Awaiting the delayed arrival of an Auslan Interpreter created a unique opportunity for awareness of and collective tending to accessibility. The two deaf artists Peter Blockey and Geoff Scott were greeted with enthusiasm and presence by all attendees, and Daisy Sanders transcribed in writing everything that was spoken as the workshop commenced. This was enough to proceed with a welcoming sense of cohesion and care until the Auslan interpreter could assist with full integration and exchange.

Supported by an energetic attention in the room, Esther McDowell began by introducing her arts practice. She described the influence of family and country on her work, and how her use of materials is informed by knowledge of species and botanical influences. Participants were quickly absorbed in a process of drawing with charcoal and eucalyptus oil, creating rich and intricate pattered landscapes, and still-life images of the banksias Esther had brought in.

Photograph by Elizabeth Pedler

A break after the workshop allowed artists to enjoy food together and forge new connections while chatting about their various, notably diverse practices.

Daisy Sanders opened the facilitated conversation by describing her experiences of and questions about the environment. She described her various endeavours to grasp the complex, interdependent life ecology of our earth, and how that informs her way of making, living and being as an artist. The participants were invited to think through provocations and were divided into pairs, then larger groups, to allow for extended, open-space discussion. Though the topic Artists and The Earth was broad, the discussion coalesced around questions of sustainability and inter-connectedness. The discussion ended on a note of quiet contemplation: each artist left with a question to carry with them into their arts practice, and a new way of considering the relationship they have with the earth. The presence and insight of Nyoongar artist Esther McDowell highlighted the need for more perceptive exchange, shared understanding and language in this space, and thus the importance of more questioning together, and deep listening.

The swarm of faces – friendly, tired, inquiring, joyous – revealed a FLOCK of invigorated and grateful Perth artists, who gathered themselves and were soon gone into the cool winter night. It was another exciting and fulfilling occasion, which once again had ignited rich conversations, curiosities, moments of inspiration and support numbering far more than usual for a short event.

We want to thank the Art Gallery of WA for their generous support in making FLOCK #12 possible, Esther McDowell for her workshop, and Daisy Sanders for leading the discussion. FLOCK is a monthly event by, and for independent artists living in (or visiting) Perth. It emphasises the bringing together of artists across all career stages and disciplines, to meet through activated creative practice and conversation. The FLOCK ecology is flexible and open-hearted, with an ‘all-welcome’ approach that promotes (by example) best practice, collective strength and celebration of Perth’s artistic vitality. Gathering artists together frequently, in a variety of local arts venues should be inevitable, but feels rare and radical. FLOCK creates a regular space for artists to meet, explore, wonder and inspire together, and to cultivate inherent valuing of how this can evolve our West Australian arts and emergent cultural life.

Elizabeth Pedler and Daisy Sanders

The next FLOCK event is supported by the Blue Room Theatre and will take place on Thursday 1 August at the State Theatre Centre from 5.30-8.30pm. Find more details, and register, at the Eventbrite page.

Pulse Perspectives and Hatched alumni’s art journey

Ben Bannan _Pulse and Hatched
Artist and Pulse Perspectives and Hatched alumni, Ben Bannan.

Ben Bannan knows a thing or two about how to carve a successful path in Western Australia’s arts industry having been selected as a Pulse Perspectives artist in 2014 and  Hatched 2018. We recently chatted to Ben about his inspirational art journey.

What do you remember about your experience in the Pulse Perspectives exhibition? Did you take away new ideas, advice that has helped you get to where you are now?

I remember being really excited that both of my year 12 works had been accepted into the exhibition. At that time Year 12 Perspectives seemed like the biggest possible opportunity and more than anything I was excited that my work could be viewed by such a large audience. I think being in the exhibition helped give me some confidence to study contemporary art at a tertiary level.

What influenced you to go down the artistic path and who would you say has had the most profound impact on your choices so far?

Art was always something I did for joy and comfort growing up. From doing art for leisure to pursuing a career in the arts there have been different people and mentors along the way that have impacted me. I had very supportive art teachers in high school who nurtured my enthusiasm and then when I went to University, I had lecturers that really encouraged me to take risks. Most recently in February, I finished an internship at PICA with Eugenio Viola and Charlotte Hickson. This was a particularly formative experience for me, and they are both people who have helped expand the way I think about my arts practice and other ways of engaging with the arts professionally.

What advice can you give the artists in Pulse Perspectives this year in relation to how to forge ahead with their artistic career? What are the challenges they may face?

I’d really encourage anyone wanting to forge a career in the arts to engage with artist-run-spaces in Perth such as Cool Change Contemporary, Paper Mountain and The Lobby to name a few. These are the spaces where peers are showing, making and supporting local and national art and supporting them gives artists the opportunity to really engage with and become part of the arts community. Pursuing a career in the arts can often be really frustrating when you often encounter people who might not understand your choices or dismiss the industry. I think these encounters are important in challenging your goals, but they also become a lot easier to answer and justify when you feel like you’re making the decision alongside a large number of really amazing, talented and driven people.

You exhibited in Hatched 2018. How does this experience different to what you went through with Perspectives?

I exhibited in Hatched 2018. Graduating from art school was very different from graduating from year 12. High school focuses on developing two singular works or ‘final pieces’ that are meant to encapsulate everything you know and have learnt up until that point. My experience in art school was much more about developing ways of working and interests that could develop into bodies of work and sustain a practice. Therefore, my Hatched experience included much more of focus on working with PICA to customize my project for the exhibition in a way that best fitted my work within the constraints of a large group show. It was really my first experience with gallery practices and protocols and it was exciting to be a part of that process.

Any exciting news/projects you would like to share with our subscribers?

I currently have some work in an exhibition called looking now anyone here with Brent Harrison and Wade Taylor at Paper Mountain, as well as a collaborative work with Penny Coss at Mundaring Arts Centre as part of their 40th-anniversary exhibition Continuity and Change: Future.

Pulse Perspectives exhibition is showing at AGWA until 22 July.

Following your visit to Pulse Perspectives, vote for your favourite piece of work in the Act-Belong-Commit People’s Choice Award. 

Pathways to Practice

Pathways to Practice

Author: Shauna from A.F.BATT


Earlier this month I attended Pathways to Practice, an event the dually presented by AGWA and PICA. Featuring artists from the Pulse Perspectives and Hatched 2019 exhibition, the event provided a safe space of sharing no matter where you were at in your learning journey. The warmth present in the room was uplifting with young people gathering, eager to learn more about the opportunities available to pursue their passion.

The panel and conversations during Pathways to Practice offered a balanced view of the industry for recent ATAR Art graduates.

PICA Curator and facilitator of the panel discussion, Charlotte Hickson began the discussion where she readily noted the politics behind the white cube.

Pulse Perspectives artist such as Sophie Cowell shared her first-hand experience with this aspect of museum practice when showcasing her tactile piece that was placed behind glass for conservation sake.

Other Pulse Perspectives artists Luke Button made a humble study of trees against landlines and has now taken the bold step toward the media frontiers in his academic pursuits. Last but not least, Alexandra O’Brien’s talks about her piece I am All Ears, a personal favourite. An immaculate rendition of a self-portrait mimicking a diptych is laid in front of the audience weaving a sonic narrative alongside the work Alexandra admits is a sentimental exploration of self and the world.

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Alexandra O’Brien I’m all ears 2018. Oil on canvas, audio file and oil on headphones, three parts: two at 50.5 x 40.5 cm each; Headphones with audio: duration 2:42 min. Iona Presentation College

My key takeaway from this programme would be the understanding and advice these artistic platforms offers emerging creative powerhouses in Perth.

Art offers a platform for diverse worldviews by igniting communication, collaboration, and dialogue. As a strong advocate for alternative routes, I end this piece with this one request. My one appeal for art practitioners would be to speak with people on the street or in different industries. In the coming age of smart cities, collaboration is critical.

Pulse Perspectives is showing at the Art Gallery of WA until 22 July 2019.

Hatched 2019 is showing at PICA until 7 July 2019.

To read more about Shauna’s passion project visit her website www.afbatt.life

Passionate about the arts, Shauna wears local Perth design by Silly Thelma that is now gifted to a Singaporean musician Codie. A symbolic transaction aligned with the vision of the platform. This image was shot by Sarah Goh

Top 10 things to experience at ART BALL Electric Dreams


ART BALL – It’s not your usual black-tie gala. Find out why it’s touted as the event on Perth’s social calendar.

Final tickets are on sale now at artball.com.au


Perth’s famous indie-pop-rockers San Cisco; multi-WA Music Award-winning synth duo FEELS and rising electro-pop stars Priscilla will ignite the main stage with epic live sets, while ART BALL 2019 resident DJ, ALSAN (Ash Keogh), will dominate the decks.


Iconic Australian performance art duo, The Huxleys, literally step right out of the pages of VOGUE and into ART BALL, roaming the corridors of the iconic AGWA building in their provocative, hyper-glam costumes, bringing their decorative absurdity to Perth for one night only.

BALLS! A lot of them! A huge 15,000 litre ball pit will take over AGWA’s Imagination room, complete with stair to get in and out of it in your black-tie garb.


Cult cabaret performance legends YUMMY return to Perth especially for ART BALL to take guests on the most delicious and unpredictable ride of their lives. The joy-evoking cast will deliver their signature high-camp style and world-class circus skills to killer pop-tracks. YUMMY hostess-with-the-mostess, Valerie Hex, will also MC the night. The final floorshow will be an unforgettable, high-octane collaboration between the YUMMY cast and Perth’s international cheer squad, the TNT All Stars.

Perth’s trendiest boutique hotel, QT Perth, will be serving delicious signature cocktails from the QT Bar. French Champagne house G.H. Mumm is bringing the quality bubbles, with Juniper Estate wines and WA craft beer pouring all night. That right folks, all dranks included in your ticket, all night!

Perth-born light artist Brendan Harwood will create a three-story interactive projection installation using motion sensing technology that triggers a cascade of neon orbs to fall down the wall and attach to the outline of the users body shape, creating a giant, neon avatar. The work will be enjoyed by the user as well as providing a spectacle for those enjoying the visual delights of the work as they sip champagne and cocktails in king-sized beds.

ART BALL’s infamous nude life drawing sessions return with a curious glow-in-the-dark twist.

You won’t go hungry at this event. For the first time, ART BALL introduces the all new ELECTRIC EATERY, a lavish space where guests can retreat for some serious winter-warmer feasting. Think braised Harvey beef cheek on mash, buckets of sweet potato fries, a pimped up hot dog stand with premium WA snags, bowls of gooey mac’n’cheese and a self-serve sundae station where guests can go nuts with their own creations after visiting the hot chocolate and affogatto bar.


Perth’s own costumed club-kid misfits Gendermess return to ART BALL to slay the stage with their alternative drag and unforgettable stage presence.


West Australian Opera star Soprano, Pia Harris, will close the night out with a spectacular rendition of Puccini’s famous aria, O Mio Babbino Caro at the stroke of midnight.

Final tickets are on sale now at artball.com.au


WIN a trip to PARIS

Buy a ticket to this year’s ART BALL Raffle and you could WIN a Business Class trip to Paris courtesy of Singapore Airlines plus a once in a lifetime one day Maison Mumm experience for two people. If a Parisian trip is not your thing, there’s also a fantastic second and third prize up for grabs. 

Tickets are only $50 each. Proceeds from the ART BALL raffle support the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, so make a difference and go in the draw to win some truly magnificent prizes!


014_AGWA_20190206_Photo by Rebecca Mansell
Wirnan, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts
By Jan Goongaja Griffiths, Artist, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts

As a group from Waringarri Aboriginal Arts in the East Kimberley, we are proud to present our Wirnan Project as part of the Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley exhibition.

“Wirnan” is a traditional Miriwoong word that describes the trade and exchange of gifts from one tribe to another. The trade of Wirnan is a way of keeping each of us connected through sharing and most importantly giving each other ideas and making artefacts. Collecting is connecting to our Country to know who we are and our children and how we used to communicate and talk and understand each other’s ways. To respect and understand our Country.

When we began this project, we had the privilege and permission to listen to one of our leaders (who has now passed) talking in Miriwoong language. She spoke about how the four Indigenous tribes came together to a special place, to trade their gifts at Argument Gap.

Jan Goongaja Griffiths from Waringarri Aboriginal Arts

It took us a while to brainstorm and to draw what Wirnan meant to us. When our map of drawings was finished, we hung it up, sat back and looked at it. We saw that we had drawn similar pictures to express Wirnan of the old and the now. So, we decided to make four coolamons as it was the main artefact used for carrying all sorts of things. Two coolamons, made traditionally from wood and paperbark, to acknowledge our ancestors from the past that walked from different directions to trade their gifts such as spears, boomerangs, spearheads, dances, songs, corroboree, ochre and traditional marriages. And two more coolamons, made with steel and ceramic, to represent our present day with similar trades, but with gifts such as food, blankets, material and money. We laid out many rocks separated in four different colours to represent the tribal boundaries. One of our highlights was going out on Country to collect what we needed for our project, to make it bigger and better, more special and meaningful.

Our Wirnan project needed more to be done, so we added a projector to show video clips and photos old and new of our people and culture. We included artefacts that we’d made with wood and ceramic at our art centre and a fire to represent the traditional dance that took place to celebrate the coming together of the tribes.

Making the Wirnan project was a big challenge for our group, but in the end, we did it. There was heartache and emotions for the dedication of two of our leaders who had recently passed away and our inspiring group who had poured our hearts and soul into this project. We can now stand proud and say that we have accomplished our Wirnan project as one strong cultural group, reminding us of how our tribal groups came together as one big family those many, many years ago.

Thank you to everyone that has made the journey, travelling near, far and wide to the Art Gallery of WA on Noongar Country as one, to share our legacies, to exchange our stories and art in different mediums. Our Wirnan project is all about this, sharing, giving and exchanging.

Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley is showing at AGWA until 27 May 2019.

Fair Trade in Aboriginal Art

Fake art
Courtesy of the artist. Artworks by artists from Kira Kiro Art Centre


Of the several million tourists who visit Australia each year, many will leave with what they assume is an authentic souvenir of Aboriginal Australian culture, whether a simple fridge magnet or T-shirt; or hand-crafted didgeridoos and painted boomerangs. Yet in many cases, what they ultimately take home with them is more likely to be an artefact that has been mass produced in China or Indonesia which currently supply up to 80% of so-called Aboriginal art products vended in Australia.

It goes without saying that the enterprise has a far-reaching impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and craftspeople co-opting a highly profitable market that should be theirs to lead and misappropriating cultural and intellectual property.

In economic terms, it is difficult to compete with these counterfeit articles, manufactured from inferior, non-traditional materials and sold at bargain prices. Many of the products bear only a passing resemblance to authentic works and patently misrepresent First Nations cultures, leaving consumers with little to gain from the trade either.

The proliferation of fake art can in part be explained by the fact that this apparently multi-million-dollar market is still free to operate without breaching Australian consumer law. Recent attempts to establish legislation which would protect the cultural and intellectual property of Aboriginal people have gained some traction, but as of 2019 have not reached a conclusion.

In the meantime, certain other frameworks have been established which, whilst not legally defensible, have introduced a greater degree of regulation and transparency to the Indigenous visual arts sector. For example the Indigenous Art Code, developed with a number of national agencies, artists, art centres and galleries in 2010, lays out a code of conduct for artists and dealers operating in the sector. Entered into on a voluntary basis, the Code nonetheless provides consumers and retailers with clear information about products’ origin and licensing. Consumers are encouraged to look for the Indigenous Art Code’s logo, which indicates that standards of fair and ethical trade have been adhered to throughout production. The Art Gallery of Western Australia shop is one retailer that stocks a high number of Aboriginal Art products and as a member of the Code, ensures all stock is ethically sourced. 

“Using the Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley exhibition as an example, here we have sourced our Aboriginal products on the participating art centres and artists to provide their artworks,” says AGWA Shop Manager, Ida Sorgiovanni.

AGWA Shop Aboriginal Art
Ethically sourced products from the AGWA Shop

In the absence of comprehensive legal changes that would prevent the trade of inauthentic and unlicensed products, growing awareness of the realities of Indigenous art trade have at least allowed many consumers to make more informed choices. As this gradually reaches wider audiences, there is hope that the artists and craftspeople at the heart of this rich visual culture can finally get a better deal for their work.

Things to ask a retailer when buying:

  • Who is the artist?
  • Where are they from?
  • In the case of original (not licensed merchandise product) how do you get the work, do you buy it outright or is it consigned to your gallery? Is this the first time the work has been sold?
  • In the case of merchandise or licensed product (not one off original works) is there a licensing agreement with the artist?
  • How does the artist get paid, what percentage of the total sales price does the artist receive?
  • Any ethical business that values and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture will be able to provide you with this information regardless of the monetary value of the work. Insist on it.

Related links

Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley exhibition

Indigenous Art Code

Desert River Sea project