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Week 6 – Guest Lecturer Damien Shen

Damien does not remember a lot about his university days because beers were 10 cents, going to cheap bands and he was studying arts, he said he was lucky that he got this far. I guess to summarise it is important to take in what you can when you are at university.[1]

He said the people who did really well were the people who really understood and got into the work and often times they would be mature aged students.

I managed to visit the 135th Meridian East exhibition and saw works by Thom Buchanan with his work “Binary Landscapes” with his fascination with urbanisation. Also, Landmark (2014) that cityscapes are seated on previous natural environment.

Fig 2: BUCHANAN, T, LANDMARKS, oil on canvas, 150 x 250 cm, Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide.[2]

Shen always believed he would become a commercial illustrator but that didn’t happen. If you want to succeed you have to be self-driven. Tasmania Mona Gallery. Keep a really open mind to the entire thing around you. Shen explains that the people he knows (and he does not consider himself to be) successful are the ones who are incredibly driven and prolific with the work that they produce.

Poe was a really good artist and illustrator before being on Master Chef.

On his mum’s side he is Nunnagerri? And on his father’s side is Chinese. He really loved magna.

Vernon Ah Kee is also Aboriginal and Chinese. David John Cason came over from America doing Charcoal drawings and was giving lessons. Shen decided to write to Arts SA and he managed to get some support and there is an Arts Writing fund but Arts SA wants you to explain how this will help you. Shen decided to document the Aboriginal side of his family and then the art gallery asks him to document the Chinese side of his family.

Daniel Connell. Jeff Sodo. Todd Shaw. Mark Rydom. Nickola Sermore? John singer Sergeants.

The best statement Damien Shen made during the lecture was that contemporary art should be about what you want to do and he does not know if students were expecting dot paintings in the lecture but that was not what he was about for that lecture. Richard Bell made a similar statement about wanting to be known for his contemporary work instead of being labeled.

[1] Damien Shen, “Guest Lecturer; Damien Shen” (lecture, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, 5th September 2014)

[2] Fig 2: BUCHANAN, T, LANDMARKS, oil on canvas, 150 x 250 cm, Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide (


Week 1 – Introduction; What is indigenous art and design?

Response to aboriginal art responding in some way, non-literal way, indigenous artists have responded to this in the past.[1]

Contemporary art pieces by indigenous Australians is contemporary art that arrives from traditions.

Red Kangaroo – Adelaide

The aborigines chose Adelaide for similar reasons as the British explorers did. The Torrens River for drinking water and transportation. Non-indigenous appreciation of indigenous work. Moved out of contemporary section in gallery by non-indigenous people. Culture is varied within indigenous art. Neo-traditional and urban mix.

Emily Carmake

Why don’t we appreciate indigenous and western art for the same reason?

David Malangi Daymirringu (1927 – 27 June 1999)

Indigenous art was used without permission from the artist’s around the 1966-1980 time period.

Two dollar coin – gwoya tjungurrayi

Designed by Horst Hahne depicts an Aboriginal Elder inspired by Ainslie Roberts drawing.

1950- 1966.

David Unaipon (1872-1967)

Price for unpublished manuscripts from Brisbane.

$50 typography for “Australia”

Harold Thomas, 1971 designed the indigenous flag.

For aboriginal embassy in Canberra. Incredible creativity amongst indigenous activists.“Redfern” focus in Sydney, birth of aboriginal medical and legal services organised by aboriginal people. 1985.Early 70’s, map of Indigenous peoples land and languages and cultures in Australia.Unsettle the nation of what we think is the “Australian continent” Unsettled the idea of “Nulla Terris ..?”

Richard Bell.

William Barak, 1898, ‘Figures in possum skin cloaks’.

They were produce for affirming cultural survival and his cultural ownership of the land and his rights.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, “Man’s Love Story”

‘Kangaroo ancestor”, Michael Nelson Jagamarra.

Mosaic Parliament House,

Rene Kulitja, Yananyi Dreaming, 2002.

Yirawala, ‘Fish’ 1968.

Warrack Thornton.

[1] Dr Stephen Atkinson, “Appropriation, Appreciation and Collaboration” (lecture, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, 1st August 2014)

Week 7 – Guest Lecturer Nici Cumpston

Curator of South Australian.

The Ghana people of the Adelaide plains.

Ghana language week- Tandanya Community Centre to learn the language of the first peoples of the country for a week.

George Cloogey – fascinated with Aboriginal Art.

He collected from an anthropological perspective.

It was for her breaking down stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Born in Adelaide in 1963, Nici Cumpston, who is of Afghan, English, Irish and Barkindji (also spelled Paakantji) Aboriginal heritage in New South Wales.

Cameleer was a name giving to Muslim men during the late 1870’s. Her father’s family was Irish/ English and academic, so when her Mother was pregnant with he she was sent away. In 1963, if you were an unmarried woman you were not allowed to have a child and you were taken into a place where you would have the baby and the baby would be taken away from you. That was true for Aboriginal people but also non-Aboriginal people.[1]

This event became apart of who we were as people growing up. Andrew and Nici created 50 portraits each for the exhibition. Leanne Buckskin First Aboriginal woman Chair of the Torres Strait and Aboriginal Art Board of the Australian Council and also manages the aboriginal youth.

Work very hard to educated the people at the University of Virginia and the broader American society. She gave a hand colouring workshop and her exhibit. Howard Morphy, Judith Ryan, etc. Working at the University. Only 3 full time staff. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection.

Nici Cumpston “Having Been There”

In a commercial exhibition. Commercial Gallery, she has distance herself from this type of work because she says she cannot work under that pressure.

Natural meeting plain where the different (up to 12 different Indigenous Australian cultures) natives would met up in the native Barkindji areas where the Indigenous Australians would exchange and trade. She would find stones that were utilised by the indigenous people for tools. Her ancestors had been there for a very long time and her sister and her felt like their ancestors were leaving their calling cards there for them.

She still works with black and white film. She develops her film and has it developed in high resolution with it being printed on canvas. She utilises synthetic polymer paint painting over the photography and she tries not to let the paper warp by mounting the paper. She has hand painted since 1987. Leopard wood tree. The sap of the tree is used for medical purposes for chest colds and mixed with sugar to keep kids quiet. Bagger Baits.

Aborignal people were moved off the land and no matter what happened it was still their land and their ownership. Who settled what? What does settle mean? It is a matter of questioning it that is important to her.

“Fossil Hole” and people come to research it both scientists and artists.

It was a men’s site and she personally did not feel comfortable in that area and only later she found it is was.

Thomas Jefferson drew the designs for the University of Virginia to be built however it was also built by slaves. He fathered one of the children to one of the slave women and none of it was acknowledged.

He’s house looked normal but there were underground tunnels for the slaves to work and move the wine so that his guests would not know how it happened.

Cumpston worked for the police force in Australia developing photos of crimes scenes for six years and while teaching at the University of Virginia one of her colleagues recommended that she show students images of the Weegee crimes scene photographs as he was a detective in New York in the early 1990s and he had his cameras and tool in his car and would her police talk on the radio about a crime scene and he would often drive there and be there before police arrived. They called him Weegee because they thought he had a Weegee board and they would ask “how did he get here so fast”.

Barmah Forrest, the indigenous people would use the bark as canoe, shields or to cradle a child. Allowing the woman of the indigenous communities and giving it to the artists to think about what they want to create.

Warrea Burton was furious because two anthropologists took two indigenous males to show them their land but not her when she knew about her own land as well. So, she decided to paint a picture that wasn’t even finish when Cumpston was there, but it demonstrated her knowledge of her own land.[1]

[1] Cumpston, N “Week 7 Guest Lecture; Nici Cumpston” (Lecture, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, September 12, 2014)

[2] ibid Cumpston, N.

Week 8 Lecture – Appropriation, Appreciation and Collaboration

Week 8

Appropriate terminology

Appreciation, appropriation, and collaboration.

Appropriation means to oblige yourself to take something without the owner consenting to you taking what they’ve created or owned. It also implies taking something and using it for your own purposes, as it wasn’t intended for it’s original form.

I managed to watch the interview with Richard Bell and noticed how impassioned Bell was to state that his artwork was not indigenous. Bell worked towards becoming a recognised artist for his work in a competitive industry rather than being noticed as a indigenous artist.

Charles P. Mountford, Aboriginal Art, 1965.

The most telling feature of this lecture was the appropriation of indigenous American culture with a “meme” image of a two white American females wearing the traditional and culturally sacred headdress of the Indigenous Americans. This shows a common practise displayed by white people in America who utilise the Native American headdress as a sort of costume piece for a dress up social functions.

The lecturer showed a clip called “Redskins name change demanded at Smithsonian forum” where indigenous Americans demanded a change for the Washington Football team because it was their culture. The spokesperson in the video confronted the ever present and real issue in America for Native Americans for the complete disregard of their culture and peoples by using a team logo and team name for this sport that has been appropriated by Westerners.

Albert Namatjira

Lots of a struggle to regain the right of his work.

Modernism had this interest in primitive art and basic forms, hence the appropriation done by modernist artists of Indigenous Australian works.

Margaret Preston tried to mix notions of modernism with indigenous culture. This is also ethically problematic and it is still the beginning of the none indigenous presence in Australia. The indigenous Australia land, culture and designs were incorporated by Margaret Preston which could be seen as highly offensive by indigenous people because she incorporates indigenous symbolism within her work such as “Aboriginal Bark Ornament” 1940 when she is a non-indigenous person. Her work was explicit and looking directly at indigenous culture in her work in a slack way. These images Preston created were taken out of context and thrown into a completely different and wrong context to give a different significance.

Bill Onus found that entertainment changed the greater crowds opinions on serious issues and he would hold boomerang throwing demonstrations and while doing this he would talk about equal pay between indigenous and non-indigenous people, land rights, citizenship for indigenous Australians who weren’t recognised by white Australians as Australian citizens at that time.

Both Onus and Preston worked toward a goal, however, Onus was the one who was indigenous and grew up in this culture, holding the correct interpretations to the various indigenous Australian symbolism.

Appropriation of these abstract ideals into the contemporary art market and “Honey Ant Dreaming”

The debate of authenticity is important and who judges what is authentic and what is not.

David Malangi, “Gurrmirringu” of the one dollar note.

Indigenous people had no rights and would receive no compensation and he would protest for rights. Medallion and fishing box and he was one of the first indigenous people to receive compensation.

Before I begin my third a final project for this topic that I hope to do an imaginary art exhibition brochure for an indigenous artist. I hope to follow the wishes of Wandjuk Marika, who said;

“It is not that we object to people reproducing our work, but it is essential that we be consulted first, for only we know…. And only we can give permission.”

I read this week’s reading by Richard Bell, he describes how anthropologists are not helping indigenous Australians especially in the past when they have taken photos of indigenous Australians and culture without permission and proper compensation. Aboriginal Art has become a commodity and Bell strongly opposes the practise of labelling and how money is being lost for the artist through the middleman.[1] Bell explains how Aboriginal Art is a white concept and he discusses the true history of Australia, which I never knew and which I found fascinating, that Australia was declared “Terra nullius” which means “land with no people’ by colonialists when there were people clearly living in this land before colonialists. Bell also explains that there is a lack of Aboriginal input into areas of concern creates a feeling of a stolen culture with the rise of white experts belittling people of the culture.[2]

Lin Onus, Aboriginal appropriating other indigenous culture in his art. He grew up in Melbourne and had no connection to his indigenous connection, but it was because Onus sought out permission to utilise cultural imagery within his artwork.[3]

Counterfeit carpets. The place was a no longer a considered area. Neo-traditional art Arnhem Land cannot be transformed to Germany or Paris. Taking from minority cultures. Reverse racism, doesn’t swing the other day. Gordon Bennett, The Nine Ricochets, 1990.

Lucas Grogan “You’ve been up all night babe” mimics the iconography from Arnhem land. Ryan Presley left his agent in protest because of Grogan’s appropriated from indigenous culture. His work is beautiful but where do you go from that? Because it is sacred to the indigenous culture.

Djon Mundine “You wouldn’t put the crucified image of Jesus on toilet paper” In response to Grogan. I believe Grogan insults the indigenous communities of Australia because coinciding with Djon Mundine comments because he takes imagery of indigenous culture out of context and makes it his own.

Tony Albert “We can be heroes” 2014

2012 shooting in Sydney of aboriginal youth who were just being children, playing and were shot.

From learning about appropriation as a aspiring illustrator myself, I hope to not create any work that relates to indigenous land or culture without permission first.

[1] Bell, R. “Bells’ Theorem; Aboriginal Art – It’s a white thing!” in Gary Foley’s Koori History Website (

[2] ibid Bell

[3] Dr Stephen Atkinson, “Appropriation, Appreciation and Collaboration” (lecture, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, 19th September 2014)

Week 9 Lecture and Reflection – James Tylor


Week 9

For this week, guest speaker James Tylor spoke on the topic of his experience and cultural connection to his indigenous Australian heritage. In the lecture, Tylor explained his interest with anthropological photos that were taken of indigenous people and places where he grew up.

Coinciding with the lecture was the reading, “Cannot buy my soul” by Brenda Croft, that discusses contemporary Indigenous art that correlates with Tylor’s approach to his work “From a Untouched Landscape”. [1]

Fig 1: Fig 1: James Tylor. ‘(Deleted scenes) From an untouched landscape #1’. 2013. Inkjet print on Hahemuhle paper with hole removed to a black velvet void. 50 x 50cm. Marshall Arts Gallery, Adelaide [2]

Tylor spoke about the censorship of war in Australia between indigenous people and white colonists hence this idea of cutting holes into his photography of these beautiful landscapes of Australia because the military would cut holes in maps for the purpose of censoring valid information.

In this weeks reading, Croft discusses the work of artists in Culture Warriors and addresses in their overt or subliminal messages within their art and the ongoing history of what truly happened in this land of Australia. Croft’s reading correlates with Tylor’s argument that Indigenous history has been fabricated from the written word of the white Australian as opposed to the spoken/ passed down stories of what truly occurred.[3] Tylor remarks on the complete genocide that occurred in this country and how history books in Australia covered this up. He did mention particular books that do not cover up what did occur in Australia to the indigenous people and over the summer holidays I will definitely get my hands on those books, as I am passionate about those topics.

Tylor spoke about his fear of losing that connection with the land and his indigenous culture, how white settlement and Christian ideologies have stumped the preservation of ancestral indigenous traditions and how art has proliferated these cultural traditions and practises.

I found what he said about white South Africans offensive because I am Australian but I’m also a white South African, and I do agree what the white South Africans did terrible things to the African people in South Africa but when he marginalises that all white South Africans treat people like slaves in the present, that is just simply not true. As a society we are always moving forward and we must never forget the past because the past is a foundation for the future. All cultures have their faults but together as a country as rich and diverse as Australia, we can thrive and grow together, hopefully, somehow through some kind of redemption.

Both Croft and Tylor agree during a time 179 years before the 1967 referendum, the Indigenous Australia who are the first Australians, have endured effects of colonisation with the impacts spanning from loss of land, scared sights (like Taylor’s statement to the demolition of canoe trees), dislocation of language and the displacement of indigenous children from their families and communities.[4]

An interesting note is to include that in 1983, Gudthaykudthay was the First Arnhem Land artist to have a solo show at a contemporary gallery making him probably the first Indigenous Australian competing in the competitive art industry to do so. His work consisted of hollow logs known as Badurra or Dupun.[5]

[1] Croft, B, ‘Cannot buy my soul – from Culture Warriors File’ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, No. 1, 2007, pg 3

[1] Fig 1: James Tylor. ‘(Deleted scenes) From an untouched landscape #1’. 2013. Inkjet print on Hahemuhle paper with hole removed to a black velvet void. 50 x 50cm. Marshall Arts Gallery, Adelaide, (Accessed 20th October, 2014)

[3] Croft, loc. cit.

[4] Croft, ibid

[5] Croft, inid, pg 4

Welcome to my Indigenous Art, Culture and Design topic journal on WordPress!

Hello and welcome to my Indigenous Art, Culture and Design topic journal on WordPress!

this site is still under construction but I will still be posting journal entries weekly about my visits to Indigenous Art displays and reflect on knowledge I have gained from the Indigenous designs from lectures or readings. I will be reflecting on the diverse expressions aesthetically by indigenous artists featuring portrayals of the Australian landscape, the people and the on goings within this beautiful nation. 

Enjoy having a browse and read!

Idiosyncratic Jess (aka Jess Johnson)