Born between 1910 and 1950, Loongkoonan, Lucy Ward, Gilgi and Peggy Wassi have seen the Kimberley change around them. At an age when most people would be looking for a quiet retirement, these passionate women have thrown themselves into painting with an uninhibited inspiration and joy - forming the nexus of one of the Kimberley's newest artistic renaissance. Based in the west Kimberley town of Derby, these women have set to work recording their knowledge of culture, law and their beloved Kimberley country. Their works have been exhibited to acclaim throughout the world, and in 2006 were the recipients of numerous art awards. The Mossenson Galleries is proud present this very special exhibition from four of the country's most exciting senior emerging artists.
In their younger days, Loongkoonan, Lucy Ward, Gilgi and Peggy Wassi worked on the burgeoning Kimberley cattle stations. The women worked as cooks and domestics, but also mustered sheep and cattle with the men. Wet seasons were spent footwalking their clan estates collecting bush-tucker, medicine and the prized spinifex wax. Walking their country with the Mananambarra (Elders), they learnt the traditional ways of their people, along with the ceremonies and stories of the Ngarranggarni, or Dreaming. Now elders in their own right, their paintings offer a privileged insight into their profound understanding of the country of their ancestors.
Bustling with their passionate insight, these works have received immediate acclaim. In 2006, Loongkoonan was announced the winner of the $10,000 Redland Art Award, while Lucy Ward was awarded first prize of the City of Stirling Art Prize. In 2007, Lucy and Loongkoonan were both chosen as finalists for the Wynne Prize. Collectively, these four artists have been represented in some of the most prestigious art prizes in Australia, including the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Alice Prize, Fleurieu Biennale, Bankwest Contemporary Art Prize, Conrad Jupiters Art Prize, Sunshine Coast Art Prize, Waterhouse Natural History Prize, Fletcher Jones Art Prize, John Leslie Art Prize, Walkom Manning Art Prize, Canberra Art Prize and Canberra Contemporary Art Space Art Award. Their works have been exhibited to great success throughout Australia and internationally, as well as being acquired by many major public and private collections.
Aged in her 90s, LOONGKOONAN is believed to be Australia's oldest practising artist. Her intricate paintings depict the myriad forms of bush tucker growing in the river regions of her Nyikina homelands. As the oldest living Nyikina speaker and one of the two signatories to the successful Nyikina-Mangala land rights claim, her knowledge is much sought after by linguists and anthropologists. Commenting on the painting that won the Redland Art Award in 2006, judge Pat Hoffie marvelled at Loongkoonan's ability 'to view the world and see richness and abundance with fresh eyes.' Having began painting for less than three years, Loongkoonan has been rightly acclaimed one of Australia's most exciting emerging artists.
LUCY WARD was born around 1920 in Ngarangarri country in what is now known as Beverley Springs Station in the central Kimberley. She began painting in 2003, and her works have since been exhibited to critical acclaim throughout Australia, as well as in America, Europe and Asia. With a provocative and daring mix of earthy and bright colours, Lucy's paintings of sugarbag, Wandjina and Ngarinyin country balance a strong formal sense with a playfully idiosyncratic vision. The judges at the 2006 City of Stirling acclaimed her prize-winning work as 'vibrant, happy and lively as well as optically challenging and full of movement'.
GILGI is a Ngarinyin woman born around 1920 at Mt Barnett in the central Kimberley. Growing up in extraordinary hardship, at age 9 she moved to a nearby station where she found herself working on building the Gibb River Road to Wyndham. As a young woman she worked on many cattle stations, and travelled extensively throughout her traditional country. This life history is reflected in Gilgi's bold and graphic images of spirit beings, Wandjina, Agula, and stories of her country. Gilgi began painting in late 2005, and within a year was represented in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.
PEGGY WASSI, at around 60 years of age is the youngest of the group. She was born on Luluigui Station on the Fitzroy River in the southwest Kimberley. At the age of around 5 was separated from her mother and brought up by her father on the station. During this time, she would go off with the elders footwalking, collecting bush tucker and visiting family members on different stations, as well as participating in ceremony and law. Taking up painting in 2006, Peggy is, with Loongkoonan, one of only a very small handful of Nyikina people to paint, and her strikingly minimal and idiosyncratic images of waterholes (murrwan) and yam dreamings (mungaling) have been successfully exhibited in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Her first exhibition in Perth was a sell-out, with works being acquired by major public collections. This trip to Melbourne will be the first time that Peggy has ever left Western Australia.
The Mossenson Galleries are proud to present this exciting new exhibition from four of the Kimberley's most diverse and unique new talents. Offering a remarkable insight into the cultural knowledge of four remarkable senior women, Derby on Derby will be opened at 6pm on Tuesday 24 April 2007 by Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation. The artists Loongkoonan, Lucy Ward and Loongkoonan will be present for the opening. For enquiries, please contact The Mossenson Galleries on (03) 9417 6694 or firstname.lastname@example.org.