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Intro

About the State Living Treasures Awards

The Western Australian State Living Treasures Awards were inaugurated in 1998 to honour senior West Australian artists who have made a lifelong contribution to their art form and their community. The awards were presented again in 2004 to honour and celebrate the diversity, talent and richness of a new group of individual artists. Twenty-three artists were honoured with the State Living Treasures award in previous years and 15 from various artforms have been honoured in 2015.

The panel selected artists based on their exceptional level of artistic skill and dedication to developing their particular art form, their contribution in teaching and collaborating with other artists, as well as a demonstrated long-term involvement in the arts in Western Australia.

The concept of the State Living Treasures originated in Japan in the post-World War II period, when the title became the highest honour attainable by a senior traditional artist. Since then, the Living Treasures awards programs have been adopted worldwide to honour influential elders of the artistic community.

The awards acknowledge the ability of artists to engage, move, involve and entertain audiences. They honour the skill, imagination and originality of the artist. 

Contents

2015 Awards panel

The panel consisted of:

  • Mr Duncan Ord (Chair) – Director General, Department of Culture and the Arts
  • Ms Seva Frangos – Director, Seva Frangos Arts; Indigenous and Contemporary Art Advisor
  • Dr David Hough – Writer, Business Historian and theatre, opera and dance critic
  • Ms Nanette Hassall – Head of Dance Department, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
  • A/Professor Andrew Lewis – Associate Head of School for Performance Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
  • Mr Barry McGuire – Managing Director, Red Spear
  • E/Professor Margaret Seares – Independent Advisor
  • Professor Ted Snell – Director, Cultural Precinct, – The University of Western Australia
  • Ms Sue Taylor – Taylor Media
  • Professor Terri-ann White – Director, UWA Publishing, The University of Western Australia 

Past recipients

2004

Alan Alder, Dr Lucette Aldous, Janangoo Butcher Cherel, Jimmy Chi, Professor Jeffrey Howlett AM, Tom (T.A.G) Hungerford, Doris Pilkington Garimara, Dr Carol Rudyard, Professor Roger Smalley, Leonard ‘Jack’ Williams, Richard Woldendorp, Fay Zwicky.

1998

Madame Kira Bousloff, Madame Alice Carrard, Peter Cowan,  Jack Davis, Margaret Ford, Vaughan Hanly, Elizabeth Jolley,  Robert Juniper, Queenie McKenzie, Paul Sampi, Howard Taylor.

Distinguished artists (having passed away prior to the 1998 awards)

Joan Campbell, Rover Thomas.

2015 Awards recipients

The 2015 State Living Treasures Award recipients were chosen from across art forms, including visual art, dance, music, puppetry, theatre, film and writing. Recipients are senior artists, who:

  • have spent a significant part of their career working within or creating work related to Western Australia
  • are highly regarded and skilled in their field 
  • have spent their careers constantly developing their work 
  • have passed on their knowledge to other artists and influenced emerging artists in their field
  • have demonstrated a commitment or contribution to the arts sector in Western Australia.

They were selected, based on the above criteria, by a panel of distinguished members of the arts and culture community in Western Australia. 

Faith Clayton

Faith Clayton has spent over 60 years working as a professional actress in theatre, film, television and radio in Western Australia. She has worked across countless genres and embraced characters from all walks of life, earning the respect of colleagues and audiences across the country.

Faith’s mother and grandmother were early influences on her love of theatre and read dramatic poems to her as a child. Throughout her childhood, Faith took speech and drama classes. She still remembers her first performance at the age of eight – an alternate reading of Little Miss Muffet, in which she told the story in English, Irish, Scottish and American accents. Faith was fascinated with people from a young age and would take note of and try to emulate unique movements and mannerisms.

Faith finished high school in 1946 and began studying psychology at The University of Western Australia (UWA) the following year. She spent three years completing a bachelor’s degree, exploring her interest in the human mind; studies that she believes greatly contributed to her talent and techniques as an actress. While living on campus at UWA she met her late husband, Alan Richardson, who would eventually go on to become a Professor of Psychology at UWA.

She also began an amateur career in theatre and her first performance with the University Dramatic Society was as Jocasta in Oedipus, at the opening of UWA’s Sunken Garden Amphitheatre in 1948. Images of Faith in the play are used on UWA promotional material to this day. Her work with the University Dramatic Society resulted in enough attention that Faith was offered and accepted a role in the inaugural Festival of Perth production of Richard III in 1953.

Later that year, Faith and her husband moved to London and Faith took a job as a clinical psychologist, putting a career in theatre on the backburner. The couple remained in England until 1957, when they returned to Perth and Faith began to work as a part-time Guidance Officer with the Education Department. They soon started a family and Faith dedicated much of her time to being a mother, while still taking on a variety of theatre roles including Gertrude in Hamlet, the title role in Mother Courage and Mrs Alving in Ghosts. By the early 1970s the actress began to work regularly for the ABC and acted in radio plays, children’s programs and a number of joint productions with the BBC.

In the late 1970s, Faith’s career began to extend to television and film. Her first major film roles were Fran in 1985 and Shame in 1988, with a number of others to follow. Faith continued to perform regularly in theatre productions across Australia, and in 1989, she won the inaugural Swan Gold Award for Best Actress for her performances in The Plough and the Stars and The Day It All Ended.

Faith worked on a number of popular television shows in the 1990s, including Ship to Shore, The Gift and a season of Parallax. In 1992 and 1994, she went on major tours of Australian theatres in Sally Morgan’s Sistergirl, one of her most beloved productions to date. In 1995, she performed as Mrs Higgins in a production of My Fair Lady and as Evangeline Court in a 1997 production of Anything Goes at His Majesty’s Theatre. Throughout her career, Faith found that being on stage and taking on the life of a character was where she felt most comfortable, “You can get lost in a play, and feel it so intensely.”

From 2009 to 2013, Faith spent time working with others in the industry, helping to research and document the history of UWA’s theatre and performances in the lead-up to the UWA’s centenary celebrations in 2013. In 2009, at the Equity Guild Awards, Faith received the inaugural Heritage Award in recognition of over 50 years of professional performance of the highest quality.

Since 2012, Faith has focused her time on performing poetry readings with a group called Well Versed at venues and events around Perth. Faith attributes much of her success over the past six decades to those she met along the way within the industry, and to the incredible support and love she received from her husband and family. 

Faith Clayton in a dressing room

 

Stephanie Coleman

Stephanie Coleman has spent a lifetime playing, studying and teaching music in Western Australia. Known as one of Perth’s foremost pianists and lauded as one of the country’s most respected music teachers, Stephanie has spent more than 60 years dedicated to her art.

Stephanie first put her fingers on the ivory keys when she began lessons at the age of five. With encouragement from her mother, she continued to play the piano and throughout her childhood, she undertook music exams, entered competitions and played in Eisteddfods across Perth. She went on to study music at school, and to this day maintains in jest that she “never practiced enough.”

In 1942, Stephanie completed her leaving certificate at Perth College and was offered a scholarship to study at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. She accepted the scholarship and moved from Perth to “big city” Victoria at the age of 16 to complete her Bachelor of Music. The degree took four years to complete and Stephanie often practiced up to eight hours per day.

In 1946, the young pianist finished her degree and moved back to WA to accept a position at Kobeelya Girls School in Katanning as a music teacher. Stephanie spent two years passing on her knowledge to young women in the rural town, before resigning in 1948 and returning to Perth. Rather than launching straight into another teaching job, Stephanie did what so many of her peers were doing at the time; she packed a bag and flew to London.

She rented a flat with a friend and spent two “wonderful” years taking lessons with renowned pianists, teaching classes at a local secondary school, and attending concerts at London’s great music halls.

In 1950, Stephanie returned to Perth and quickly fell into a position at the ABC. The ABC’s studio orchestra was short a harpist, and Stephanie was asked to play the harp parts on piano, a move that delighted the young pianist and – she jokes – exasperated the conductor. She spent seven years as an orchestral pianist and studio musician before a new opportunity came up at the ABC when the main studio accompanist retired. Stephanie did not believe that she had a shot at the position and was surprised when she was asked to take on the job in 1957. She proudly accepted and was “thrilled” to work as the lead accompanist for eight years.

With a preference for playing in the background instead of taking the spotlight as a soloist, Stephanie flourished at the ABC and “loved every minute of it.” She thrived on the challenge of receiving a stack of sheet music two days before going to air and enjoyed the collegiality and social aspect of working with other like-minded musicians from across the State. Through her work with the ABC, she received opportunities to tour the country with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO). It was during her time with WASO that Stephanie met her late husband, George Coleman, who spent many years as the orchestra’s principal viola player.

After 15 years at the ABC, Stephanie faced a serious setback in 1965 when spinal problems lead to issues with her left hand. After a major operation on her spine, Stephanie was forced to stop playing piano full time. She faced the change head-on and in the mid-1960s began to work full time as a piano teacher. She soon became known as one of the leading music teachers in the country and taught both privately and at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Stephanie’s teachings extended to children and adults of any age or skill set and many of Perth’s most respected pianists have studied under her. She worked as a music examiner and is currently a Patron of the West Australian Music Teachers Association. Stephanie holds the belief that studying music is incredibly rewarding and gives you an “insight into another world.”

In 1991, Stephanie was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her service to music as a pianist, teacher and examiner. She believes she has led a “very privileged life in music.”

Stephanie taught well into her eighties and is now happily retired and living in Claremont. She still plays the piano. 

Stephanie Coleman sitting at the piano

 

Robert Drewe

Robert Drewe is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, columnist and editor whose work is greatly influenced by the “ordinariness and tragedies” of Western Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Books fascinated Robert as a child and he pored over novels like Robinson Crusoe and The Famous Five series. He read encyclopaedias, spent hours at the library and borrowed his father’s imported magazines: the Saturday Evening Post and National Geographic. He was a keen collector of comics and copied the drawing styles of famous cartoonists.

Robert moved to Perth from Melbourne at the age of six and found a deep love for the coastline. He attended Hale School, where he was the editor, primary writer and illustrator of the school magazine, as well as the swimming and school captain. An English teacher dubbed “Monkey” Marshall was one of the first to encourage Robert as a young writer. A teacher with a penchant for the cane, Marshall terrified cocky teenage boys. But in Robert’s final years of school, the formidable teacher began to read the 17-year-old’s creative writing compositions to the class and a spark of possibility was born in Robert’s mind.

After finishing school, Robert knew that he wanted to write, but “did not know where Writing Headquarters was”. The West Australian (The West) seemed like a sound choice and he began at the newspaper as a cadet journalist on his 18th birthday. He was expected to cover all beats and quickly learned a taste for drama, covering crime and the courts. The dark and complicated aspects of humanity he experienced as a young writer would later be reflected in his memoir, The Shark Net (2000). Robert’s time as a journalist enhanced his observation skills and helped him discover his preferred writing style: meaningful, firm prose with no unnecessary airs.

Three years after beginning at The West, Robert was recruited by The Age in Melbourne. He became Sydney bureau chief of the newspaper at 22 and spent five years with The Age before again growing restless. After ten years as a journalist, he yearned for artistic freedom. In the early 1970s, the reporter made a conscious decision to transfer his focus to writing fiction after an epiphany of sorts, “a blazing notion” that he experienced while at the park with his two young sons.

Robert’s first attempt at a novel fell short and a lack of income forced him to take a position at The Australian as a columnist and literary editor. After two years at the national broadsheet, he began to spend his nights working on what would later become his first novel, The Savage Crows. With the first 100,000 words of the novel, Robert gained a Literature Board grant that allowed him to resign as a full time journalist. To support his family between books, Drewe worked as a special correspondent for The Bulletin, winning two Walkley Awards for his reporting.

The Savage Crows was published in 1976, with nine more novels and short story collections, and five non-fiction offerings to follow over the next four decades. Fortune (1986) won the fiction prize of the National Book Awards and The Bay of Contented Men (1989) won a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The Drowner (1996) became the first Australian novel to win the major literary award in every state, as well as the Adelaide Festival Prize for Literature and the Australian Book of the Year. His first memoir, The Shark Net, was highly acclaimed and won numerous awards, including the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Non-Fiction. It was also adapted for an ABC and BBC TV mini-series and radio drama, as was The Bodysurfers (1983). In 2012 he published a second memoir, Montebello.

Robert has written two plays: an adaption of The Bodysurfers (1989) and South American Barbecue (1991). The 2003 film Ned Kelly, which featured Heath Ledger in the title role, was based on Robert’s novel Our Sunshine (1991). He has also edited five short story and essay anthologies.

He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from both The University of Queensland and The University of Western Australia (UWA), an Australian Artist Creative Fellowship from then Prime Minister Paul Keating, and a Leadership Grant from the United States government. He has been writer-in-residence at UWA, La Trobe University, the Southbank Centre and Brixton Prison in London. In 2012, he was invited to write a Poetry Line to run through Forrest Place in Perth.

When Robert isn’t writing, he’s swimming laps or walking along the beach.

Robert divides his time between the north coast of New South Wales and Western Australia. He is always working on a new novel or short story. 

Robert Drewe sitting on a rock

 

Pippin Drysdale

Pippin Drysdale is an award-winning ceramic artist based in Perth who is renowned internationally for her large, intricate works inspired by the patterns and colours of landscapes around the world.

Pippin was born in Melbourne in 1943 and grew up in Perth from the age of three. Born into a wealthy family, she was a rebellious child and flitted from school to school, finding it difficult to settle down or embrace traditional education. Art was the only subject that allowed Pippin to express herself and she took private classes in painting and drawing as a child. After leaving school, Pippin worked as a typist, spent time as a secretary in Canberra, worked odd jobs in England for a year and travelled through Europe. Her life was filled with “magnificent” adventures and parties.

She returned to Australia in the early 1960s and moved to Melbourne where she married and had a son. It was in Melbourne that Pippin first sold her art, creating Mexican paper flowers and selling them through local stores under the moniker Pip’s Flowers. She moved back to Perth in the early 1970s, settling into a cottage in Fremantle that she still lives and works in today. On her return, she became interested in herbs and natural remedies, and by 1973 had built one of the biggest herb gardens in the southern hemisphere. She harvested and sold the herbs to outlets around Perth for a number of years.

It was through a relationship with a potter who made ceramic structures for Pippin’s herbs that she found clay. He built a kiln in her backyard and Pippin began to experiment with clay, creating small bowls and goblets. After their relationship broke down, Pippin became serious about clay and enrolled in an Advanced Diploma in Ceramics at Perth Technical College. She spent three years under the tough but impressive direction of teacher David Hunt.

Following the course, Pippin undertook a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Curtin University of Technology in 1986. It was during that period that Pippin discovered her love of creating large, open, “womb-like” porcelain vessels and began experimenting with the style that she is now renowned for today. Upon finishing her degree Pippin travelled to America and spent time at the famous Anderson Ranch Art Center in Colorado, developing her craft alongside revered international artists. After returning to Australia, Pippin threw herself into work and her pieces were soon regularly exhibited around Australia, Europe and collected by major galleries around the world.

She discovered a need to work thematically and many of Pippin’s series are influenced by a journey. She draws inspiration from the colours and textures of landscape, and her emotional interpretations of place and space are injected into each of her pieces. Pippin focuses in particular on the vast, diverse Australian landscape and has created series based around the patterns and colours of the Pilbara region, the eastern Goldfields, the Kimberley, and the Tanami Desert. She has also travelled overseas to draw inspiration from the dips and peaks of Pakistan, India, Russia and Italy.

To date, Pippin’s work has been exhibited in over 450 solo and group exhibitions. She is incredibly committed to her work and is constantly pushing herself to a higher standard, her perfectionism reflected in her ambitious works. In 2007, a major survey exhibition of Pippin’s works was held at John Curtin Gallery, a testament to an impressive two decades. It was at that point that she began to develop closed form pieces that she refers to as the “male” pieces to accompany her open, “female” works.

In 2008, Pippin was named a Master of Australian Craft by the Australia Council for the Arts. The following year, she undertook a residency at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2010, her Tanami Mapping I exhibition was opened by Ambassador to the USA, Kim Beazley at the Embassy of Australia in Washington DC. In 2011, Pippin received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Artsource.

Pippin is grateful to still “wake up every day with a challenge” and believes that she found her identity through her work with clay. She is currently working on a new collection called The Pilbara Series, which will be exhibited around the country in late 2015.

Pippin lives in Fremantle and is constantly searching for her next gem. 

Pippin Drysdale in her studio

 

Alan Griffiths

Alan Griffiths is a highly accomplished and respected artist, teacher, songman, Indigenous elder and cultural leader. He has spent the past 35 years creating artworks connecting cultural heritage and knowledge with personal history and experience.

Born at Victoria River Downs Station in the Northern Territory in 1933, Alan grew up on cattle station stock camps. He began doing manual work at a young age, learning from his elders how to break in camels and donkeys, and muster cattle. With a non-Indigenous father and Indigenous mother, Alan was on the list to be taken from his home to a government mission. However, when the authorities came to remove him, his grandfather moved him away to a nearby bush camp. Alan spent several years living in the bush with his grandfather, learning to live on the land, and gaining knowledge about his cultural heritage and traditions. He cites his grandfather as his main inspiration and influence.

Alan was too old to be taken to a mission by the time he re-emerged from the bush and was returned to Victoria Downs Station where he lived and worked as a stockman until 1957. He then worked on several stations across northern Australia before becoming head stockman at Beswick Station. He then worked laying pipe for the Public Works Department in Wyndham before moving to Argyle Downs Station near Kununurra around 1965. He married his promised wife, Peggy, the same year. After the 1968 Pastoral Industries Equal Pay Legislation, when Aboriginal people were removed from stations, he sought work on a cotton farm in Kununurra.

After he retired in 1981, Alan began to take art seriously, starting out making didgeridoos and carving boab nuts. Alan’s growing interest in creating artwork coincided with the establishment of the Waringarri Arts Centre, which has been an integral supporter throughout his career. By the mid-1980s, Alan was working with canvas and ochre, presenting imagery that depicted the mapping of his traditional country alongside interpretations of cultural traditions and corroborees, as well as stories of his life on stations mustering cattle. In paintings that celebrate life and culture, Alan’s art is joyous, humorous and playful.

Alan’s work was exhibited across the country throughout the 1990s, and was shown at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2013 and 2014. Alan and Peggy were invited to launch the award in Darwin in 1997, and again as part of the TNASIAA’s 30th anniversary celebrations in 2013.

In 2006, Alan received a Creative Development Fellowship from the Department of Culture and the Arts, allowing him to produce a major body of work for the Darwin Festival. As part of the Fellowship, he became an artist in residence at Edith Cowan University and passed on knowledge about his practice. The same year, he took up a residency at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory to advance his printmaking skills.

Alan is a respected cultural leader throughout the Kimberley region and across to the Daly River region of the Northern Territory. Alan’s corroboree, which includes the Bali Bali Balga and Joonba performances are complex interpretations of events, country, spirits and cultural knowledge.

Alan’s work is held at Parliament House in Canberra, the National Gallery of Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery and significant national and international public and private collections. His paintings, prints, carvings and cultural artefacts have been included in more than 40 group and solo exhibitions since the early 1990s. In 2007, he won the East Kimberley Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contribution to art and culture. His performances are regularly presented throughout the Kimberley and at key events as part of the Darwin Festival.

Alan and Peggy – also a highly respected artist in the region – continue to work with the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre, and often collaborate on paintings and cultural works. “The most important thing for me is passing my knowledge onto my sons, daughters and grandchildren the things I learnt when I was growing up. Painting my country and keeping my culture strong is what is important.”

He has five children, 27 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

As an octogenarian, Alan continues to create, perform and teach. 

Alan Griffiths standing next to one of his paintings

 

Joan London

Joan London is an award-winning author whose critically acclaimed works focus on the uniqueness of the human story, journeys taken to find truth, and the complexities of relationships between generations, families and lovers.

Joan grew up the youngest of four sisters in Perth. She was surrounded by “amazing” literature as a child, with novels dating from the early 1900s in the family bookcase. A dedicated reader, Joan “found new worlds” within books, spending hours re-creating stories in her backyard as a child. Children’s novels from the early 20th century like Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians and Pioneer Shack by Dora Birtles struck Joan’s imagination. For as far back as she can remember, Joan wanted to be a writer.

Though the recreations of novels stopped when she hit her teenage years, Joan remained encouraged by literature throughout her schooling. After high school, she completed a degree in English and French at The University of Western Australia; but it would be almost a decade before she wrote a story. Joan’s twenties were spent travelling the world, finding love, having children, attempting to live in the country and building a life. It was not until 1978, soon after she had her second child that she had enough distance from early experience to be able to write.

Joan wrote of her life and her generation: their identities as travellers, idealists and romantics; a generation always searching for something; young people who rebelled against the values of their parents’ generation, sojourned in India and attempted communal living in the country. She discovered the stories of the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, who had explored the universality of her own experiences a generation earlier. Joan’s first book of short stories, Sister Ships, was published by the Fremantle Arts Centre Press in 1986. Her second book, another collection of short stories called Letter to Constantine, followed in 1993. Both books were later published together as The New Dark Age in 2004.

Joan achieved considerable success with her first two books, winning The Age Book of the Year Award for Sister Ships, the Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Steele Rudd Award for Letter to Constantine.

But the pressure of feeling obligated to create something new bought on a stagnant period for Joan. She grew fearful that she did not have any more stories to tell, until one night, she had a vivid dream that would one day become a novel.

She dreamt of a young woman with a baby travelling in foreign lands, looking for a place surrounded by mountains, a place that was not quite Eastern or Western that would be her home. The dream had a title ‘Gilgamesh.’ She began to research and discovered the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first known work of poetry. Joan spent years researching and took a trip to Armenia, which she identified as the country surrounded by mountains between the East and West. “I felt that I’d been sent that dream, I felt lucky to have had it.” Joan’s first full-length novel, Gilgamesh, was published in 2001. It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and won The Age Fiction Book of the Year Award.

Seven years later, her second novel was published, The Good Parents, in which Joan again explored the ideals of her generation. The story centres on the rebellious journey of a young woman, away from her parents who have attempted ‘the good life’ in the country. It examines what so many generations have in common – the desire to “be better than our own parents,” and the relationships forged and sometimes broken within families. The Good Parents won the 2009 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

In 2014, Joan’s third and most recent novel, The Golden Age, was published by Random House. Sparked by a desire to write about the 1950s and an interest in hospitals dating back to a brief hospital stay in Joan’s own childhood, the novel delves into the Australian polio epidemic. Set in Perth, it follows a forbidden love story between two young polio sufferers. The Golden Age won the 2015 NSW Premier’s People’s Choice Award, was shortlisted for a number of other honours, and won the national Kibble Literary Award in 2015.

Joan’s work is created and defined by a deep connection to her characters, a constant desire to explore human nature, and a yearning for authenticity within herself and the worlds she builds.

Joan lives in Fremantle with her husband and is currently writing a new novel. 

Joan London on a staircase

 

Dr Mary McLean

Dr Pantjiti Mary McLean is a highly respected artist, speaker, teacher and senior Indigenous woman from the Gibson Desert.

Pantjiti was born around 1930 at Kaltukatjara (Docker River), and grew up in the spot on the map where the West Australian, Northern Territory and South Australian state lines meet. An Anangu woman of the Ngaatjatjarra people, as a child she lived on bush tucker and travelled from rockhole to rockhole to find water gathered from occasional rainfalls.

She lived in Papulankutja with her family until the 1950s, when food and resources became scarce. Pantjiti, her husband and their young son walked to Warburton Mission, and then 700 km to the small community of Cosmo Newberry in the Eastern Goldfields. In 1953, anthropologist Norman Tindale took Pantjiti’s photograph for his extensive documentation, recording the movements and tribes of Indigenous people. Pantjiti’s son was placed in Mount Margaret Mission, where he remained until he was a teenager.

Pantjiti was devastated by the removal of her son and stayed in the area to be near him. She began to work on stations nearby, eventually becoming a “gun horsewoman” mustering sheep in the Eastern Goldfields. She received rations and clothes, occasionally making money catching dingoes and collecting a bounty for their scalps. After spending around 10 years working at both Mt Weld and Gindalbie Stations, she moved to the Kalgoorlie Native Reserve, where she spent a decade working at the sandalwood camps. Groups of Indigenous women were stationed at the sandalwood camps, barking the trees for export. In 1980, she moved to the Ninga Mia community outside Kalgoorlie with her second husband.

It was then that Pantjiti first began woodcarving (warta) and making wooden animals to sell to tourists. A local gallery on the main street of Kalgoorlie encouraged Pantjiti to take up dot painting, which she delved into precisely, with a limited colour palette. Dot painting was a major contemporary art trend in the 1990s in Australia.

In 1992, she met Nalda Searles, a respected Perth artist. Searles was working on the Warta Kutju program, facilitating art activities for Indigenous people living in fringe camps in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Searles encouraged Pantjiti to put more colour into her paintings and to tell her own stories. Pantjiti began to include people, animals and reptiles, and suggested an Arcadian view of her early life in her Country. Searles and Pantjiti became friends and collaborators, and worked on a number of projects together in the following decades.

Within a year of beginning to paint her stories, Pantjiti was invited to exhibit a collection of paintings at the Fremantle Arts Centre. Her Hunting Grounds exhibition sold out in November 1993, which encouraged Pantjiti. She painted stories of her childhood: family, goannas, rockholes and red earth. She painted The Tjukurrpa – dreaming stories – and hundreds of desert flowers. A Christian woman, Pantjiti painted Jesus into the land, melding Christianity with the deep history of her own culture, depicting a complex marriage between the two belief systems.

In 1999, a collection again exhibited at the Fremantle Arts Centre called Go Along Now showcased works telling the stories of Pantjiti’s life as a drover.

In 2002, Pantjiti was awarded the Senior Indigenous Visual Arts Fellowship from the Australia Council. For the project, she agreed to produce a series of small paintings of her Country, to be presented as a mosaic. Pantjiti and Searles travelled to Blackstone, Pantjiti’s father’s Country, to develop the paintings. The same year, Pantjiti received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Curtin University of Technology for her contribution to visual arts and cultural reconciliation in Western Australia.

Pantjiti’s work has been displayed in prestigious galleries across Australia and she has won a number of awards and prizes, including the 1995 Telstra Aboriginal Art Award. She has encouraged many new artists in their practice and inspired endless students with her talks and workshops. Her generosity and knowledge of her culture is known throughout Australia.

Due to illness, Pantjiti is no longer able to paint and her final works were created and displayed through Warakurna Arts in 2013. Pantjiti now lives in her Country, in a spot between Kaltukatjara (Docker River) and Papulangkutju (Blackstone). She remains very connected with her son Walter and her grandchildren, who live in Kalgoorlie.

Pantjiti often speaks of her art to Searles: “Nobody showed me. I learned myself. It is happiness in my heart; art is happiness, all the stories in my heart, that’s my happiness.” 

Mary McLean sitting in front of one of her paintings

 

Noriko Nishimoto

Noriko Nishimoto is considered a master of puppetry in Australia and internationally, with over 45 years in the industry. Her impressive career is driven by an incredible passion for the art of puppetry and an ambition to keep developing her skills through hard work and determination.

Noriko began her studies in drama at a performing arts academy in Osaka, but was inspired to change direction after seeing a puppet show and joined the highly regarded La Clarte Puppet Theatre in Osaka. She worked as a performer, writer and director amongst peers of all ages, and learned all aspects of theatre. Noriko spent 16 years working full time with the company, before becoming a freelance performer, writer and director.

Australian director Peter Wilson discovered Noriko in 1980 when he saw a puppet show she directed in Tokyo. A year later, he wrote to her, asking her to travel to Perth and work as a master puppeteer on the Festival of Perth production Faust. She spent six weeks working in Perth before returning to Japan. After the success of Faust, Wilson set up Spare Parts Puppet Theatre (Spare Parts) in Fremantle and wrote to Noriko again, asking her to return to Perth and work with the theatre as a master puppeteer and technique master for one year.

One year turned into two, three and eventually Noriko gave up her Japanese citizenship to become an Australian citizen. During her early years with Spare Parts, Noriko performed and trained performers within the company and toured with the company throughout Australia, China, Korea, Japan, Canada and the USA. She also passed on her knowledge conducting master classes in Australian capital cities.

In 1987, Noriko became Associate Artistic Director at Spare Parts and her responsibilities increased to directing, adapting, writing and designing for productions. While working with Spare Parts, Noriko took on numerous freelance directing projects across the world including Terrapin Puppet Theatre in Tasmania, Polyglot Puppet Theatre in Melbourne and Theatre Drak in the Czech Republic. She collaborated with dance and theatre companies in Western Australia, including Two Dance Plus and Black Swan. During a six-month break from Spare Parts, she worked as a freelance artist on projects with eastern states artists, Skylark Theatre, Handspan Theatre and Polyglot Puppet Theatre.

In 1997, Noriko was appointed Artistic Director of Spare Parts. The company was going through a difficult time, but Noriko was determined to keep its doors open and worked tirelessly to revitalise the company. She focused on creating and directing productions to reflect Australian culture, including The Bugalugs Bum Thief, Cat Balloon, The Deep, Eat the Moon and the large-scale The Midnight Gang in collaboration with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.

She established a company associate program to encourage individual West Australian artists to become involved, and a school of puppetry for the community to allow artists to share their skills and knowledge with the public. She also developed national and international tours for the company’s productions, explored collaborations with artists from other disciplines, and consolidated the company’s artistic reputation.

After 19 years with Spare Parts, feeling that she had achieved many of her artistic goals and made her mark on the company, Noriko stepped down in July 2001 to work as a freelance theatre director. Her work as a freelance artist after Spare Parks included puppetry creator for The Mamu production with Black Swan Theatre Company, directed The Emperor’s Nightingale, and conducted master classes for company performers at Capital E National Theatre for Children, and teaching drama students in New Zealand. She was puppetry director for Claudia Alessi’s Point of Entry dance production at the Perth International Arts Festival in 2002.

Noriko has been invited back to Spare Parts annually to revamp previously successful productions. Her recent projects as co-creator and creative consultant include Moominpappa at Sea and the upcoming production The Fox.

In 2008, she was recognised by international puppetry association Union Internationale de la Marionette (UNIMA) for her contribution to puppetry in Australia and in 2012, she was the first to be honoured by UNIMA’s Women’s Commission, who acknowledged Noriko’s Outstanding International Contribution to Puppetry. In 2014, Noriko was awarded an Honorary Life Membership by Spare Parts.

Noriko enjoys living in Fremantle and has a cup of coffee every morning. 

Noriko Nishimoto playing with a puppet

 

Chrissie Parrott

Chrissie Parrott is one of Australia’s most prolific choreographers, and has created over 90 works nationally and internationally. She has made her mark as a dancer, choreographer, director, teacher and artist. Her works have been performed in Holland, France, Japan, East Java, Germany and Australia.

Born in Northern England in 1953, Chrissie started dancing at the age of three and became “serious” about it by age seven. A performer from the time she could walk, Chrissie studied tap, ballet and musical theatre during her childhood, and won numerous competitions as a young dancer. Chrissie and her family moved to Australia when she was ten years old and she continued to study ballet. At the age of 19, sought after for her talent and diverse dance background, Chrissie was offered a position with the WA Ballet Company. She spent seven years with the company, and created her first choreographic work, Like Hiroshima: Just Another Fallout in 1976. Two years later, her first major commissioned work, Catherine’s Wedding, was performed at the Sydney Opera House.

Chrissie left the WA Ballet in the late 1970s to join Sydney-based One Extra Dance Company. She toured with the company to Europe, where she spent a number of years living and working. Chrissie’s next move was to German company Tanz Forum, where she regularly performed for audiences of about 3,000. While working in Germany, Chrissie met her future husband, with whom she had a son, Griffeth. They moved to Stockholm, where Chrissie worked as a dancer and choreographer with Swedish company Crammeer Balletten, then back to Australia in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The Chrissie Parrott Dance Company was born soon after their return with the aid of government funding and a period of significant creative success followed. The company was at the forefront of contemporary dance in Australia and was well known for its high impact productions. Chrissie created most of the company’s works, successfully fusing dance with theatre. The company toured internationally and won numerous honours including the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award in 1992. Chrissie also won The Sounds Australia Award for her dedication to collaborating with Australian composers and musicians. She acknowledges that much of the company’s success was due to her talented team. “Most artists who are successful are likely to be surrounded by other exceptional artists and collaborators.”

The Chrissie Parrott Dance Company folded unexpectedly in 1996 after a change of government in WA and subsequent loss of funding. Chrissie moved into the next phase of her career, joining the dance department at Edith Cowan University. She began to research teaching methodologies using high tech animation and motion tracking techniques. She was awarded a number of travel and research grants through ArtsWA and travelled to France and USA. After returning to Perth, she began to create dance works and large-scale digital artworks using new technologies, which are held in company collections across Australia. In 2001 she became a Senior Research Fellow at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), and continued to research motion capture and video and colour tracking technologies.

During her time at WAAPA, Chrissie was instrumental in setting up LINK, a graduate dance company created to help dance students make the transition from university to the professional world. In the early 2000s, she worked as an adjunct professor at the Queensland University of Technology, teaching multimedia. In 2003, she formed Jambird Multi Arts Company with Perth-based composer and musician Jonathan Mustard. The pair produced multi-screened immersive works using digital technology, sound and choreography. Their works attracted many commissions and awards, including showings at the Monaco Dance Festival in Monte Carlo.

In 2000, Chrissie won the West Australian Citizen of the Year award for Arts and Entertainment, and in 2005, she was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to Community and the Arts. In 2011, Jambird was commissioned to create a piece for the opening of the State Theatre Centre of WA, and in 2013 was commissioned to create a large-scale outdoor dance work for The University of Western Australia’s centenary celebrations. In 2014, Chrissie was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the West Australian Dance Awards.

Chrissie is a Resident Artist with the Black Swan State Theatre Company and in 2015 she will direct a stage adaption of The Red Balloon. She is a project coordinator with Community Arts Network WA in the eastern Wheatbelt of WA. Chrissie focuses on mentoring a new generation of artists, as a way of “giving back” to the community that has supported her for over four decades.

Chrissie lives in Perth with her partner. 

Chrissie Parrott standing with two dancers performing in the foreground

 

Herbert Pinter

Herbert Pinter is an award-winning Perth-based production designer who has worked on some of the most iconic Australian and international film and television productions of the last four decades.

Born in Austria in the mid 1940s, Herbert had not considered a career in film until he moved to Australia as an 18-year-old. Though he loved watching films as a child – particularly American westerns – Herbert never gave any thought to a creative career. It was not until he was working as a carpenter in Adelaide in 1973 that he stepped onto his first film set, picking up work with the Australian Film Corporation constructing and decorating sets.

After his first job with the Corporation he was offered a permanent contract as a construction manager and fell into a life with film, working on productions like Storm Boy (1976) and The Last Wave (1977). “After I started I didn’t want to do anything but work on films.” Herbert learned by working hands-on in the industry and observing his peers, graduating to the role of art director in the early 1980s. In 1981, he landed a role as art director on Peter Weir’s Gallipoli.

Herbert was nominated for an Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Best Achievement in Production Design for Gallipoli, and still refers to it as “the scariest film” he has ever done. His work on Gallipoli boosted his career significantly and the phone began to ring only days after he returned from shooting. His next big film was The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), for which he was again nominated for an AFI award for his impressive production design. Throughout the 1980s, Herbert proved his talent in the diverse productions he worked on. From historical dramas, to modern action, Herbert prides himself on his ability to transform the most difficult location into a set from any era or world.

In 1987, Herbert travelled to Western Australia for the first time to work on a children’s television production called A Waltz Through the Hills. While shooting the series, he met and fell in love with the production’s location manager – now his wife. At the same time, he fell in love with Perth and never returned to Adelaide. He jokes that when he first made the move, directors like Bruce Beresford would call him up and ask why he was living in faraway Western Australia, and he would reply that it is “the best place in the world.”

During the 1990s, Herbert continued to design major productions around the world from a range of genres. He travelled to Canada for Black Robe (1991) for which he was awarded Canadian Film and Television Academy’s Genie for Best Art Direction. He also worked as production designer for action movie Sniper (1993) in Queensland and on creating World War II scenes for Paradise Road (1997). Throughout the 2000s, Herbert worked on action movies Texas Rangers and The Marine, and on two major Australian children’s television series: Parallax and Wormwood.

In 2004, Herbert was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for his work on the telemovie And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself. For the same production, Herbert won an Art Directors Guild award for Excellence in Production Design. The film, an historic Western recreation starring Antonio Banderas, took Herbert and his family to Mexico in the early 2000s where his daughter worked on set as a horse wrangler. Herbert has travelled the world throughout his career and often takes his family with him, exploring locations not often seen by tourists.

In 2009, Herbert worked on critically acclaimed film Mao’s Last Dancer, and was again nominated for an AFI award for Best Production Design. In 2011, Herbert worked on the intricate television adaptation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. The following year, he won the APDG Award for Design on a Television Drama and the esteemed Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television Screen Craft for his production design on Cloudstreet.

In recent years, Herbert worked on the ABC production Serangoon Road and mini-series The Secret River. He is still incredibly passionate about his job and thrives on the challenge of creating new worlds. “Who else gets to build a whole village or city, then knock it all down?”

Herbert Pinter lives with his wife on a property on the outskirts of Perth. He continues to take on new film projects. 

Herbert Pinter in his studio

 

Nalda Searles

Nalda Searles is a West Australian visual artist whose work in fibre textiles is nationally recognised for its intricate presentation and strong connections to the Australian landscape.

Nalda was born in Kalgoorlie in 1945 and grew up in the small town of Bullfinch in the Eastern Wheatbelt. One of six girls, Nalda often spent her time as a child “finding something creative to do.” She left school at 15 and undertook training in psychiatric nursing before taking off to travel through Africa, Australia and Asia. On her return to Australia in 1975, she was drawn to the arts, and her creative drive took over.

In 1979, Nalda took a short course in macramé and learned how to manipulate materials, igniting a passion for the woven cord and string. After completing the course, Nalda began to collect materials from the land – bark, sticks, stones – and taught herself to weave fibre textile baskets. In 1982, Nalda applied for and received a grant from the Australia Council to develop a significant body of work. She packed her car and headed for Sandford Rocks, spending the next six weeks camping, gathering materials and weaving local fibres into primitive vessels. She coiled her stories into forms taking influence from both her travels and childhood. Upon her return, Nalda showed those works in her first major solo exhibition, Bush Meetings and Basketry with the Crafts Council of Western Australia.

With a great desire to develop her artistry, Nalda enrolled in a Fine Arts degree at Curtin University of Technology in 1989, majoring in painting. Despite studying a challenging art form, Nalda excelled. After graduating, she was invited to run a Healthway program in Kalgoorlie, teaching local Indigenous people, many of whom lived on the streets, to engage in art-based activities. The program ran for two years. Pantjiti Mary McLean, a Ngaatjatjarra woman, was one of the program’s participants. Nalda and Pantjiti formed a lifelong friendship; Pantjiti taught Ngaatjatjarra language to Nalda and they would later collaborate on major pieces.

In the early 1990s, Nalda was involved with a group of Western Desert women and began to teach basketry in remote communities alongside arts worker Thisbe Purich. Their teachings instigated the now renowned Tjanpi Desert Weavers. From the late 1980s onward, Nalda also worked with Lynwood Senior High School and Edith Cowan University (ECU) to conduct bush camps in northern WA for students interested in art. She taught at the ECU camps for 21 years.

In the mid-1990s, Nalda received a midcareer fellowship from the Department of Culture and Arts, which resulted in a major group exhibition at the Moores Building in 1997 entitled Re-Coverings. The exhibition combined her work in fibre arts with salvaged textiles and was shown as part of the Festival of Perth.

In 2003, Nalda formed an idea to hold a cross-cultural exhibition between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in Western Australia. The outcome was the Seven Sisters: Fibres Arising in the West exhibition, works from the Inma Kunkurangkalpa, The Seven Sisters or Plieades star constellation, a major dreaming track which extends across the entire continent. Thirteen female artists from across the country participated and an exhibition toured the State in 2004. The project was an important step in cross-cultural relationships in the arts community. Included in the exhibition were seven life size fibre female figures, The Seven Sisters, that are now held in the Western Australian Museum.

In 2009, Nalda won the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Awards from Artsource. The same year, her largest exhibition to date, Drifting in My Own Land, opened at John Curtin Gallery. Nalda travelled with the exhibition to 18 different venues across Australia over four years, finishing up in 2013. In 2015, a number of Nalda’s works were featured as part of the An Internal Difficulty exhibition, based on the antiquity collections of Sigmund Freud at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Through her work, Nalda creates a strong sense of place and displays a passionate relationship with the land. Nalda’s practice respectfully weaves her own stories with those of Australia’s traditional owners and injects her knowledge of history and mythology along the way. Art is her outlet. “You put your life into it. Your tragedy and your ecstasy.”

Nalda is a force to be reckoned with in the Australian art scene and her teachings have inspired countless new artists. She has conducted workshops in all corners of Australia and taken her skills overseas to India and South Africa.

Nalda Searles lives in Perth and still regularly travels to the Western Desert. 

Nalda Searles standing next to two of her creations

 

Lew Smith

Musician Lew Smith is a revered veteran of the jazz world and has made significant musical contributions to the Australian and British jazz scenes throughout his career. With over six decades as a self-taught professional and semi-professional musician, Lew is a stalwart of the Perth jazz community.

Lew was born in 1930 in Pickering, North Yorkshire. Surrounded by music as a child, he joined his father’s band as a drummer by the age of 12. The young musician spent a few years on the drums before realising that he was more suited to being a “melody man”, and after his father bought him a saxophone at the age of 15, there was no looking back.

Lew was called up for national service in the Royal Air Force in 1948, and after being told that he could be a cook or a policeman, he said “well, I can play the saxophone.” After an audition, he was offered a position with a military band stationed in Henlow, Bedfordshire. Lew spent two years completing his national service and frequented jazz clubs in London during his downtime.

After finishing his service in 1950, Lew found his first job as a professional musician on a passenger ship travelling between Southampton and New York City. He spent six months playing with the ship’s orchestra and saw many of the jazz greats perform during his time in New York, including Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie. The period had a profound influence on Lew.

When Lew returned to England he continued to pursue music and accepted a position with the highly successful Teddy Foster Band. He was thrown into regular radio broadcasts and shows, and met his wife June at at Butlin’s holiday camp in 1951. June was a member of the all-girl orchestra Ivy Benson, and the two were married within a year, beginning a lifetime of playing music together. For the next four years, Lew performed with successful groups including the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra and the Eric Winstone Band. Around 1956, he accepted the position of lead alto saxophonist in the esteemed London Palladium Orchestra. He worked seven days a week and performed as part of a televised variety program on Sunday nights. Lew spent some time with the orchestra, but the unforgiving schedule lead to a need for change in the late 1950s.

Yearning for warmer shores, Lew, June and their three children travelled to Melbourne on the Ten Pound Scheme, and Lew once again took on a position with the military as a musician in Melbourne’s RAAF Central Band. He spent just six months in the job, leaving the structured regimes of the military to spend a year performing within the artistic hubs of Melbourne’s theatres.

In 1962, he accepted a position with the Education Department to teach music. A few years later, Lew and June joined a pop band called Maximum Load, with June on vocals and Lew on saxophone. They spent three years performing together and earned chart success with a song called Riding Through the Dandenong Ranges. During that time, Lew spent his days completing a Librarianship Degree and began to lecture in librarian studies.

In 1973, a librarian conference in Perth was the catalyst for another change: Lew and his family packed up in 1974 and moved to Perth. Both Lew and June quickly picked up work as jazz musicians, and Lew took on a job at the Education Department. Lew began to perform with different bands at the Perth Jazz Society, and Lew and June soon formed a jazz band called June Smith and the Apple Band. Later, both Lew and June would win Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Perth Jazz Society.

After cementing his place in the WA jazz scene, Lew was approached by The Sunday Times to write a jazz column, which he did for 10 years, interviewing and reviewing local and visiting musicians, including Nat King Cole. He also took on a job lecturing in jazz practice and theory at Edith Cowan University. In the early 1990s, Lew formed a versatile quartet for Musica Viva, taking an interactive jazz program to schools across Western Australia. The program ran successfully for six years.

In 1992, Lew helped to found Jazz Fremantle, a club that still meets every Sunday afternoon. Lew is the only surviving founding committee member and still acts as the Vice President and Master of Ceremonies.

Lew Smith retired from teaching music in 1995 and continues to perform as a band member and leader on saxophone, clarinet and flute. 

Lew Smith playing saxophone

 

Miriam Stannage

Miriam Stannage is a highly regarded Australian painter, photographer and printmaker who has been creating art for over 50 years. Her work is characterised by its references to the Western Australian landscape and a desire to challenge social conceptions.

Miriam was born in Northam in 1939 and moved to Perth with her family at the age of five. Miriam recalls looking through large illustrated books of famous European paintings as a child, while her father explained the stories behind them. She left school at 15 and took courses at a business school, finding work as a secretary. During her late teens she spent two years studying nursing before deciding to continue with office work until 1961, when she travelled to Europe, Canada and the USA. She visited major art galleries along the way, revitalising her love for art.

Not long after her return, Miriam took up night classes in art, beginning her education with William Boissevain. She enjoyed the work, but it was not until she began to take classes with painter Henry Froudist in 1965 that her passion for art deepened. Froudist’s professional, encouraging approach inspired her greatly. “I couldn’t stop painting, and I haven’t stopped since.” In 1965, despite only a few years as a budding artist, Miriam opened her own art space – the Rhode Gallery. For around 18 months, she displayed and sold pieces from artists across Australia.

Miriam sees Froudist’s death in 1969 as a catalyst for the beginnings of her independent career as an artist and her first solo exhibition was held that year at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Perth. The following year she won the Albany Art Prize with an abstract piece, judged by art historian Bernard Smith. Her profile as an artist was propelled instantly and she was awarded studio space at the prestigious Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris for seven months. Her time in Paris caused a breakthrough in thinking for Miriam and she returned full of inspiration.

Miriam began to teach art at universities and technical colleges and taught art therapy in various hospitals as she continued her own personal journey as an artist. Her perspective on art began to expand and so did the way she worked. A trip to Europe in 1979 with her husband – painter and educator Tom Gibbons – happened to coincide with the anniversary of the invention of photography, and exhibitions were scattered across Venice. Yet again, an overseas trip sparked a new interest in Miriam and she took up photography upon her return.

She has since created and exhibited numerous photography series, with a particular focus on words and symbolism. She has taken risks with her photography, often handcolouring her photographs and creating collages. A major exhibition of Miriam’s early photography work was held in 1993 at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, entitled Words on the Landscape.

A number of themes have run steadily through Miriam’s works from the beginning: her religious upbringing, a fascination with war and conflict, sexuality, humour, and the way that humans see the world. In recent years, she has focused on surveillance and crime, particularly following the events of September 11. But it is the Australian landscape that is most prominent throughout the artist’s work, which Miriam puts down to her early years in the country. The artist has spent her life travelling between the city and country, taking numerous trips to the bush alone in an old campervan. In 2000, Miram spent a month as artist-in-residence at the International Artist Space in Kellerberrin, where she created work related to the land and her family.

In 1989, the Art Gallery of Western Australia held a retrospective of Miriam’s works dating back to the late 1960s. In 1998, Miriam was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Curtin University and in 2006, an exhibition showcasing her work from 1989-2005 was held at the John Curtin Gallery.

Miriam’s work has been showcased in group and solo exhibitions across Australia and is held in State galleries including the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. She has influenced many young artists through her work and teachings. Though she never set out to become an artist, she now “can’t think of anything else.”

Miriam is currently working on putting together pieces for a retrospective of her works from the past ten years, to be held in 2016 at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. A monograph on her life and work will be published at the same time.   

Miriam Stannage standing next to one of her paintings

 

Dr Richard Walley

Dr Richard Walley is an artist of many disciplines: a musician, dancer, painter, writer, director, Indigenous activist and educator, to name a few. He has spent over forty years educating Australia and the world on Nyoongar culture and identity through the arts.

Richard was born in Meekatharra in 1953 and grew up in bush camps south of Perth. Art was a big part of his childhood: music, storytelling, craft, carving and dance were all taught to him at a young age. His family were musicians and artists, and a great influence on Richard. Throughout the early years of Richard’s life, the Walley family moved with the seasons, following work “everywhere but a town.”

It was not until the age of 14 that Richard first lived in a town, when his parents moved to Medina, south of Perth. He completed high school in the area and picked up an apprenticeship in boiler making, spending four years completing the course. After only a few years in the field, Richard was encouraged to take a job with the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship Committee.

By 1976, Richard was chairing the Western Australia Aboriginal Advisory Board and was involved in other committees including the Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Medical Service and Aboriginal Housing Board. His passion for his culture and desire for social change informed his career, and he found it “natural” to incorporate and promote the arts through his work.

In 1978, Richard and a group of friends formed the Middar Aboriginal Theatre, aiming to combat the concept that Nyoongar culture was dying. The group began to bring traditional Nyoongar music, dance and theatre to the public, performing at events across the country. At its height, Middar Aboriginal Theatre had around 30 performers and performed in 32 different countries. To this day, the original company still exists as Middar.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Richard also worked in television, film and theatre, both as a solo performer and as part of Middar. He directed and co-directed several highly successful theatre productions in Australia, USA and the UK, including critically acclaimed plays Coordah and Munjong. In 1989, Richard performed with the East Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the performance was recorded for an SBS documentary called Didgeridoo in Deutschland.

In 1991, Richard was named the NAIDOC Aboriginal Artist of the Year. Two years later, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the arts and promotion of Nyoongar culture. He continued to play the didgeridoo in venues across the world, and in 1996 released a six disc didgeridoo album collection inspired by the six Nyoongar seasons. During the 2000s, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Murdoch University for his contribution to culture and arts, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from The University of Western Australia (UWA).

Richard spent two separate four-year stints as the Chair of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board, beginning in 1992 and 2000. Throughout that time, he continued to perform within the arts as a musician and dancer, and exhibited paintings in galleries across the world. In 2003 he released an album called Two Tribes, combining traditional music with contemporary rap and hip-hop. A follow up, Two Roads, was released in 2006. On the back of those records, Richard and his two sons spent time touring with the John Butler Trio performing a spoken word piece conveying “culture is still vibrant, and everyone has one.” Richard and his sons were also invited to play didgeridoo on stage with Carlos Santana in 2011.

In 2010, Richard was awarded Citizen of the Year in the Indigenous Leadership category. The following year, he performed a Welcome to Country for the Queen during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. Over the past 10 years, Richard has acted as cultural advisor for numerous projects in Western Australia, including the Aboriginal Health Unit within the Department of Health. He continues to play the didgeridoo and perform across the world, and regularly exhibits new visual artworks.

For the past two decades, Richard and his wife Robyn have run cultural awareness programs for various companies in Western Australia, and conducted lectures in Aboriginal Culture at UWA. They are currently working on a new business idea that they hope will help to educate a new generation.

In 2015, Richard is working on music for a new album, continuing to bring the stories of the Nyoongar people to the public and fitting in performances wherever he can.

Dr Richard Walley

 

Dave Warner

Dave Warner has spent his career immersing himself in the arts: as a musician, novelist, writer, and performer. One of the key voices of the Australian punk movement in the 1970s, he continues to comment on suburban life in the lucky country today.

Dave’s career was defined by growing up in Perth: the searing heat, the gumtrees, backyard pools, weekend footy, Caroline Noble on the telly. The ebbs and flows of Western Australia are reflected in his art.

From the age of 12, Dave knew that he wanted to write books. “That was the first thing I wanted to do, was be a writer.” He devoured books in the shade of his backyard as a kid and crowded around American rock magazines with his mates as a teenager. But it wouldn’t be until later in life that he would publish his first novel; his love of music won out first.

Around the age of 16, Dave and his friends would get together every other week to play music. Dave did not have an instrument and his parents bought him a keyboard on the condition that he take formal lessons. It was the late 1960s, and Dave took influence from what he calls the “antirock” bands of the era – Country Joe and the Fish, The Fugs.

Dave was still playing punk in friends’ garages when he started a degree in psychology at The University of Western Australia a few years later. In 1973 he formed his first professional band, Pus, with original bassist Michael Feeney. Pus has been lauded as one of the first real underground punk bands in Australia. By the end of 1974, the band had a cult following who would “shout and dance on tables” in pubs across Perth.

In 1975, Dave finished up his degree and Pus decided to peacefully disband long before the worldwide punk movement really began. But Dave was not ready to give up on music yet, and he bought a one-way ticket to London, seeking fame and fortune. He spent 18 months in a flat in Brixton, writing song after song, creating demo tapes, and going to shows. He describes his time in London as one of the most creative periods of his life.

In 1977, Dave returned to Perth and formed his second band, Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs. It was during this period that Dave earned his highest level of commercial success as a musician, with songs like Suburban Boy and Convict Streak. The band was soon signed to Mushroom Records, and their first album, Mug’s Game, was certified gold in 1978. Dave and various line-ups of The Suburbs released three more albums, ending with This Is Your Planet.

That same year, the band decided to officially part ways. Dave sought other creative outlets, and his postmusic career started with stand-up skits with friend and Suburbs guitarist Johnny Leopard. They also dabbled in screenwriting and theatre, and in 1985, Dave wrote and produced a musical called The Sixties and All That Pop. Later that year he wrote and performed in a full-scale musical at Perth’s Playhouse Theatre called Planet Pres.

In 1987, Perth’s suburban boy packed up and made the move to Sydney to pursue screenwriting. It was not an easy transition; to most, Dave was still a musician. It was during those early, tough years in Sydney that he began to write his debut novel, City of Light, which was published in 1995. It earned critical acclaim and won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Best Fiction Work.

Television networks began to take notice and from the late 1990s until 2012, Dave worked full-time as a writer for a number of major Australian shows, including Sea Patrol, McLeod’s Daughters and Packed to the Rafters. In 2000, Dave’s first feature-length screenplay Cut was released, with three others to follow. He had a number of other books published, dabbling in crime, comedy, sport, music, and children’s books. Recent projects include the script for Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS, and the highly successful show The King and Me at Perth’s Fringe World Festival.

Dave’s first crime novel in 15 years, Before it Breaks, was released this year through Fremantle Press. He already has plans to work on a followup book, record some new songs and work on a screenplay or two in the coming years.

Dave lives in Sydney with his wife and three children, and is always thinking about his next project. 

Dave Warner standing on stage

 

About the photography

Frances Andrijich has a longstanding relationship with the arts in Western Australia, collaborating with many prominent WA artists throughout her career. This book allowed Frances to both document and celebrate the State’s 2015 Living Treasures. Following is a reflection on her experience photographing these artists.

Faith Clayton greeted me at her front door in her striking leopard print coat and I instantly thought, we must use this! Ivan King from The Museum Of Performing Arts collection brought theatrical ambiance to the setting with an arrangement of costumes, wigs and opening night cards.

Joan London’s charming staircase and cluster of books formed a perfect frame for her silhouetted figure. She told me that she would often carry bundles of books from the downstairs study to her writing study upstairs.

The piano and music have been so central to Stephanie Coleman life. The reflection inside the piano creates the sense that she is at one with the piano and that she’s fused into it.

Robert Drewe and I decided that the Indian Ocean or the Swan River would be part of our portrait. On the day, the stormy conditions in last light created the perfect metaphor for his writing.

I decided to photograph Pippin Drysdale at the exquisitely renovated cottage where her creativity is best nurtured – at home with her beautiful creations.

The last light of the day fell on ‘Thegoowiyeng’ the rocky outcrop across from Waringarri Aboriginal Arts ; the red rock, spinifex and blue sky providing a perfect backdrop to photograph Alan Jangala Griffiths – a respected, artist, song-man, performer and cultural leader.

This portrait of Mary McLean was taken by her good friend and collaborator Nalda Searles. “This image was one of many I took of Pantjjti over the years…This one was taken around 1998 and it so happened on the day her clothing just matched the painting. It all came together. She really enjoyed that, a real serendipity.”

After spending quite some time selecting the puppets to photograph Noriko Nishmoto with, the final choice was Petra Matasek’s intricate, delicate and perfectly theatrical pieces from the production Carmen.

Photographed in her studio, Chrissie Parrott Arts Maylands, we created a scene akin to a painting with the frame made by Chrissie providing an elegant backdrop to the strong yet fluid movement of dancers, Laura Boynes and Linton Aberle.

I photographed Herbert Pinter in his Chidlow studio. It was wonderful to work with this most generous collaborator. The doorway to his study seemed to be the obvious choice as it reminded me of film strips.

Nalda Searles was very clear about where she wanted to be photographed and the artworks she saw herself with. It was great collaborating with such an intriguing and gifted artist.

The Ellington Jazz Club was the natural location to photograph Lew Smith. The moody, dark lighting created an atmosphere that was as emotive and smooth as his sound, and it a privilege to have him play while I photographed him

When I walked into Miriam Stannage’s home, I was faced with an extraordinary labyrinth of diverse artworks and compelling creations and we chose to photograph Miriam with two of her pieces.

Having worked with Richard Walley over many years, I am no stranger to his varying talents and artistic endeavours. This depicts Richard as the strong, proud, cultural leader that he is.

I photographed the talented Dave Warner at the Charles Hotel. More than forty years of gigs and it’s still magic for him to connect with an audience.   

 

Page reviewed 25 June 2019