When one thinks of Indigenous art, traditional dot paintings often come to mind; but as long demonstrated by urban Indigenous artists such as Gordon Bennett, Judy Watson, Tracey Moffatt, Richard Bell and Sally Morgan, and more recently by the likes of Ben McKeown, Kamahi-Djordon King, and Naretha Williams, contemporary Indigenous art is as diverse as Indigenous culture as a whole.
Tandanya, Adelaide’s National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, is currently hosting an exhibition, Believe, by Adelaide-born artist and writer, Peter Sharrock, who has used a number of alternative methods in his practice, whilst paying homage to some traditional approaches.
Utilising mixed media to convey his personal identity and cultural heritage, Sharrock also tell the story of universally shared human emotions and experiences.
All of Sharrock’s pieces emanate a sense of earthiness and a connection to the land with flowing lines, irregular shapes, and earthy tones: ochre, green, grey; the shadows of which are cast against light backgrounds.
His piece, Lung, is the outline of human lungs, painted with ochre on stiffened white paper. While it is obvious that the piece depicts a set of lungs, the flowing lines also mimic the shadows cast by a tree branch. There is a connection between the two that cannot be ignored; humans and trees depend on each other for life.
As a writer, Sharrock offers us the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of his pieces with insightful poems in place of descriptions. For example, he writes in his poem, Lung, “we forget how important the air is that we breathe”.
Holes feature significantly in Sharrock’s work. In his Feeding Emotional Poverty series of tiles and his Coolamon series of dishes, Sharrock has taken normally functional pieces and put holes in them, thus removing their utility.
He does this to demonstrate how those who hang on to their emotional issues have emotional holes that perpetually increase, as they continue to cling to them.
Sharrock invites us to take a step back from our hectic and often emotionally draining lives to remember small joys, togetherness, and the triumph we feel when overcoming adversity through strength of character. He does this with a unique and contemporary take on traditional Indigenous expression.
By Peter Sharrock
Tandanya – National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide
June 10 – August 14