Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley

Garry Sibosado, Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent) 2018 (detail)An exciting, experimental, and current look at Aboriginal art from the Kimberley, the Art Gallery of Western Australia presents Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley – bringing together over 150 new and old works that reveal the many faces and features of contemporary Aboriginal art from the region.

Co-curated by Carly Lane, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and Emilia Galatis, Community Liaison & Project Coordinator, this landmark exhibition celebrates the conclusion of a six-year visual arts research and development project between the Art Gallery of WA and Aboriginal artists and art centres in the Kimberley.

New works from three independent artists and more than forty artists from six Kimberley art centres will be presented as eight installations that are as diverse as much as they are alike. Each installation represents a different journey toward the same destination of individual and collective cultural expression.

Experimental in both intent and form, the installations range from leather cow hides to video and animation, to paintings in sand, ochre and acrylic, to glass works, drawing and photography, as well as small and large-scale geometric designs on pearl shell and aluminium. These works capture the creativity, imagination and texture of Kimberley art and culture.

The artists and art centres on display include Darrell & Garry Sibosado (Lombadina), Daniel Walbidi (Bidyadanga), Kira Kiro Art Centre (Kalumburu), Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency (Fitzroy Crossing), Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre (Mowanjum), Waringarri Aboriginal Arts (Kununurra), Warlayirti Artists (Balgo) and Warmun Art Centre (Warmun).

The Sibosado brothers have produced a collaborative piece drawing inspiration from the Bard concept of Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent). The resulting work is an intricate pearl shell sculpture measuring 1.8 metres in length, accompanied by large scale riji designs in aluminium. Daniel Walbidi’s Wirnpa is an evocative sand installation and video work depicting a large-scale representation of Wirnpa – a salt lake and creation being in the Artist and his family’s ancestral Country.

Inspired by the rich tradition of rock art paintings and bush foods of the region, artists Betty Bundamurra and the late Mrs Taylor have created vivid and expressive works that share stories of Country and the role of Kira Kiros and other spirits as protectors and creators.

The works from Mangkaja Arts focus on station stories from artists’ personal and collective memories. Diverse in medium, the collection features painted animal hides, bush-dyed textiles and repurposed ready-made objects, while the Warlayirti artists translated their painting skills into a series of glass works exploring the themes of desert bush foods and Country.

Inspired by the works and cultural knowledge of Paddy Neowarra, Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre will feature the work of artists including Johnny Divilli, Dean Nulgit and Rona Charles, creating a series of works incorporating photographs, maps of dance steps, drawings and video, that emphasise the importance of Junba – a cultural performance celebrated across the Kimberley.

More than eighteen artists from Waringarri Aboriginal Arts have created a new work that unpacks a complex cultural narrative known as Wirnan. Working across three generations, artists convey the significance of this concept through a video work, ground installation and a series of objects traditionally used in Wirnan.

Fifteen Warmun artists have worked collaboratively to create a series of ochre paintings, six with accompanying animations. It is the first time theses artists have used animation, working with animator Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman.

The commissions are presented beside works of art from the WA State Art Collection and private and art centre collections. Shown together, the works highlight some of the most significant works of art by revered Kimberley artists, past and present.

“This is an exceptional event for Australia: new works from six Kimberley art centres and three independent artists will be presented alongside a selection of legacy works from art centre collections,” said AGWA Board Chair, Janet Holmes à Court.

“Together with works from AGWA’s Collection, the exhibition will offer a rare experience of the land, artists and art of the Kimberley. We are delighted to link up with the Perth Festival which is the perfect context for this significant project.”

Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre, Roe Street, Perth
Exhibition: 9 February – 27 May 2019
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Garry Sibosado, Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent) 2018 (detail). Ochre pigment on engraved pearl shell, thirty-four parts, 182 x 28 cm (overall). Courtesy the artist.