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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Osborne

Art Gallery of WA – Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley

– traditional stories and contemporary experiences combined in the over 150 diverse works on display from coastal Broome to the deep desert of Balgo, from Kalumburu, the most northerly settlement in Western Australia, to the river outposts around Fitzroy Crossing – 200 communities and 30 language groups. Art making across thousands of kilometres of northwest Australia is firmly rooted in place and culture, drawing inspiration from the old and the new. It is as varied today in tradition and style as that of the rock art masters of 40,000 years ago. The works on display were a mixture of specially commissioned pieces, together with work from the WA State Art Collection and private and art centre collections. The commissioned works ranged from paintings on leather cow hides to video animation, as well as paintings in sand, ochre and acrylic, to glass works, pearl shell, steel, drawing and photography, mostly representing the Kimberley since the coming of the pastoral industry; there were many dot paintings too, those with brief descriptions making them easier to interpret. The mythical serpent was sinuous and glistened, portrayed in segments of pearl shell etched with traditional patterns and stories. A most interesting morning browsing, some relief for tired feet moving slowly from piece to piece, by sitting and viewing historical film of the Nookanbah saga of the late 1970s early 80s. We ‘refuelled’ at the Brass Monkey, before heading home.

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