Why is this work a self-portrait?

Tjungkara Ken, Kungkarankalpa tjukurpa, Seven Sisters Dreaming, a self-portrait, acrylic on linen, 240 x 200 cm (© the artist Photo: Mim Stirling, AGNSW)

This shimmering work by Indigenous artist Tjungkara Ken is a finalist in this year’s Archibald Portrait Prize.

It’s only the second abstract work by an Indigenous artist to be shortlisted for the prestigious prize.

So what makes it a self-portrait?

Ken, who is from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia, explains that this work is a representation of her tjukurpa, or dreaming, which in Anangu culture is akin to a self-portrait.

She speaks to me, alongside fellow artist, and one of the directors of Tjala Arts, Nyumiti Burton. I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to it here.


Why is the art from the APY lands so good?

Award-winning artist Barbara Moore in front of one of her paintings at Tjala Arts, in Amata (Georgia Moodie)

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia are home to some of the powerhouses of Australian contemporary art.

This year alone, artists from the APY lands earnt 25 nominations for the most prestigious Indigenous art awards in the country, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

Earlier this year, 14 artists from the APY lands were announced as finalists in this year’s Wynne Prize for the best Australian landscape painting, and two others were named as finalists of this year’s Archibald portrait prize.

Work from these tiny art centres will also feature in Tarnanthi, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

I travelled to several of these remote communities to meet with award-winning artists Barbara Moore, Mumu Mike Williams and Nici Cumpston, the Artistic Director of Tarnanthi.

I travelled courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia, and I produced this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can listen to it here.

Anangu artist Mumu Mike Williams standing in front of his recent work, painted onto old Australian Post mailbags (Georgia Moodie)

Young Australian artists on show at MCA

Each year, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, or the MCA, stages an exhibition called Primavera, which showcases the best young Australian artists.

Primavera 2016 explores ideas of transmission, and in particular the idea that meaning is created in the body first, and not the brain.

I travel to the MCA to explore the exhibition, and meet curator Emily Cormack and two of the participating artists, Pia van Gelder and Biljana Jancic.

I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to the story here.

Fluid collaborations between Guangzhou and Sydney

An artwork called Mr Humidifier is bringing the humidity of the Chinese megacity of Guangzhou to an art gallery in Sydney – quite literally.

The Hong Kong-based artist Trevor Yeung has used a dehumidifier to condense the sticky summer heat of Guangzhou into water, and that water is being used to steam up a the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

It’s the result of a collaboration between 4A and the Guangzhou Observation Society, one of China’s most exciting contemporary art project spaces.

Trevor and the Sydney-based artist Lucas Ihlein have spent time in both cities, and the work they have made during those residencies is now on display at 4A in Sydney.

Lucas’ work also deals with water, mapping how climate change induced sea level rises might affect Guangzhou and the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which is one of the most densely urbanised places in the world.

I spoke to Lucas and Trevor for ABC RN’s Books and Arts and you can listen to the interview here.

Jeannie Baker’s new children’s book, Circle

9780763679668Jeannie Baker is one of Australia’s most well-known children’s authors and illustrators, whose award-winning books include Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Home and Belonging.

For every page of her children’s books, Jeannie creates intricate, life-like collages, using natural materials such as leaves, feathers and hair wherever possible.

She only publishes a children’s picture book once every five years or so, because of the length of time it takes her to complete each collage.

Her collages are works of art in their own right – they are part of many public art collections and have been exhibited in galleries in London, New York and throughout Australia.

Her latest book Circle tells the story of the endangered Godwit – the long-billed, long-legged migratory wading bird.

The Godwit undertakes the longest unbroken migration of any animal, flying from breeding grounds in Alaska to Australia and New Zealand.


As part of her research for this book, Jeannie travelled to Alaska, China and South Korea where the godwit is losing its natural habitat and food source due to human development.

The artwork from Circle will launch at the Maritime Museum in Sydney, and will tour nationwide for two years from June.

I produced this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can listen to the story here.

Jeannie Portrait

The Art of Giving: Tim Fairfax AC

Tim Fairfax

In the second in my series on Australian arts philanthropists, we meet Tim Fairfax AC.

Fairfax is the great-great-grandson of John Fairfax, who began the Fairfax media empire by buying The Sydney Morning Herald in 1841.

But instead of becoming a media mogul, Tim Fairfax tried his hand as a jackaroo, and then spent much of his career as a grazier in central Queensland.

Now, he has quietly become one of Australia’s most generous arts philanthropists.

He’s the largest single donor to the National Portrait Gallery and he’s on the boards of numerous boards and trusts for the arts.

Since 2008, he has given more than $16 million to community-based arts, music and sporting projects in regional Australia through his own foundation.

We meet Tim Fairfax at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, where an exhibition showcasing the more than 70 contemporary artworks that Tim has supported the gallery to acquire opens on the 11th June.

I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to my interview here.

Callum Morton’s not-quite-right replicas

Acclaimed Australian artist Callum Morton is best known for his large-scale works that meld sculpture with architectural design.

His latest work is a site-specific exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne, called Reception.

The work is a one-to-one replica of the foyer at Schwartz’s gallery, which was designed by the architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall in 1993.

Reception even includes a robotic replica of the gallerist herself!

The animatronic figure is deliberately odd – she’s a bit confused and her voice is distorted.

Morton explains why he is drawn to creating these not-quite-right replicas in his artistic practice.

I recorded this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can listen to the interview here.