Lena2sd

ABORIGINAL ART & CULTURE

After the flood

In March 2011 a severe flash flood destroyed the Warmun Art Centre. While very luckily no human lives were lost, the loss of and damage to the community’s collection of paintings was devastating. With the help of experts over 400 paintings from the Warmun community art collection have now been carefully restored.

"A plain of dried, golden spinifex stretches from Warmun Art Centre’s doors to the horizon, where it juts up against a red rock escarpment, glowing like an ember in the afternoon"

Many of these paintings, works of extraordinary cultural value, were by the regions most famous artists and included paintings by Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Hector Jandany and and Paddy Jaminji. In this blog  Cayla Dengate, Warmun Art Centre assistant manager and curator, tells us about the art centre today and its great success beyond the flood. 

A plain of dried, golden spinifex stretches from Warmun Art Centre’s doors to the horizon, where it juts up against a red rock escarpment, glowing like an ember in the afternoon.

In this sun-dried sea of savannah, an immense boab tree anchors Warmun Art Centre in the frame - its gnarled branches providing a canopy of shade for artists.

It is this sparse, beautiful environment that is central to the contemporary artists who own Warmun Art Centre.

This globally significant Western Australian centre is a 100 per cent Aboriginal owned corporation where the artists preside over the studio and gallery.

Lena Nyadbi photo Matthew Fallon

Isolation is no barrier between Warmun Art Centre and the contemporary art world. In this year alone, Warmun Art Centre has supported Lena Nyadbi as she launched the world’s largest installation at the base of the Eiffel Tower; It has celebrated with Mabel Juli as she won the Kate Challis RAKA Award; It has seen Churchill Cann win the West Australian Artist Award and it will surely watch on as Lena attends The Deadlys this year where she is nominated for Visual Artist of the Year.

Since the centre opened in 1998, Warmun artists have been renowned for their use of natural ochre and pigments on canvas, which is integral to the contemporary expression of land and culture as identity for Indigenous Gija people. The work of Warmun artists is an inseparable and celebratory part of Gija culture and country, and draws on traditional Ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) stories and contemporary life.

Today at the centre, the boab tree is laden with seed-filled nuts – heavy with promise and potential. The art centre is also cultivating its next generation by way of emerging artists. From crushing ochre and painting boards to creating cutting-edge multimedia art in the centre’s media lab, these emerging artists are supported on their journey through Gija culture and contemporary art practice.

Like the boab, Warmun Art Centre continues to cultivate emerging talent at its base while reaching its branches higher to the clear Kimberley sky.

You can read more about the art of Lena Nyadbi in the article Eiffel Tower Dreaming in the First Nations issue of the creative-i magazine available in the Books & mags section of this website.