Meet Three Emerging First Nations Artists, Whose Work Is Coming To The NGV

You can’t talk about Australia’s art world without recognising the incredible diversity, talent, and contributions of our First Nations communities.

Now, a new partnership between the National Gallery of Victoria and Country Road is giving a new platform to First Nations artists in a year-long mentorship program and exhibition series.

The first-ever iteration of the Country Road + NGV First Nations Commissions has paired eight emerging artists from every state and territory with renowned industry mentors, including the likes of Vincent Namatjira OAM and Jonathan Jones.

Each of these creatives were asked to create a new artwork in response to the theme ‘My Country’. And for many of them, the exhibition marks the reveal of their most ambitious, personal, and significant works yet.

Get to know three of the amazing artists below before you see their works in person!

Jan Baljagil Gunjaka Griffiths (WA)

Jan Baljagil Griffiths is a Miriuwung artist, mother and grandmother who primarily creates paintings, ceramics, and poetry. Based in Kununurra, she works out of Wangari Arts and has been mentored by her mother and senior artist Peggy Griffiths for the commission.

‘I have learnt a great deal from [my parents] about painting and I am honoured to have been handed down their stories,’ Jan says.

Her four-metre-high piece depicts the native boab tree, which Jan notes as the holder of ‘history, knowledge, Country and connection to my people.’ The impressive artwork is made up of 32 works on paper painted with traditional ochre found in the East Kimberley, alongside ceramic boab nuts Jan painstakingly hand painted.

‘I would like my audience to be impacted by the size of my work and to be curious about what it means. I want to convey my pride in being a Miriwoong person — “This is Miriwoong culture still standing strong.”’

Sophie Honess (NSW)

Gamilaroi weaver and textile artist Sophie Honess has been working with fabrics for about seven years, often exploring the natural landscape of Tamoworth, Gomeroi Country. It’s taken her almost eight months and 86,000 wool knots to create the three rugs featured in the exhibition!

‘The three rugs represent the unique and beautiful Country, its grasses, granite boulders, and creek beds. I grew up with friends that lived out there, and we would play in the creek, climb the granite mountains and walk through the tall grasses,’ Sophie says.

‘It’s an honour to show my work in this exhibition, and to share my part of the world with a large audience.’

Mitch Mahoney (VIC)

Mitch Mahoney is an artist and a descendant of the Boonwurrung and Barkindji peoples of south-eastern Australia. He’s currently based in Newcastle, and has worked alongside his aunt and mentor, Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta and Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba woman Maree Clarke.

For My Country, Mitch created three works that bring together cultural practices, cultural objects and representations of family and Country. These include a red gum canoe and river reed canoe that was made with the support of Barkindji elders and shows imagery of the Barka and the Menindee Lakes — reflecting his paternal Country. Mitch as also made a possum skin cloak featuring intricate designs referencing the abalone reefs as an ode to his maternal Boonwurrung heritage.

See ‘My Country’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from March 22 until August 4. Entry is free.

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