Prisoner talent revealed in leading Aboriginal art exhibition

Five of the prisoners’ artworks are part of the showcase of new and emerging WA Aboriginal artists which opened Saturday at the Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC).

Aboriginal art centres and individuals from all over the State participate in the 11-week exhibition, which draws thousands of people for the opportunity to engage with the artists and purchase their work.

Artists were chosen for the exhibition by a panel of industry experts including FAC Visual Art Curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington.

Fremantle Arts Centre Visual Arts Curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington

“I think there was a freedom in both of the artists’ work,” Mr Iseger-Pilkington, a Nhanda and Noongar man, said. “There was a sense of being a space for them to dream and to think about Country and community.

“It’s really great to see rich, dynamic and an interesting work coming out of the prison system,” he said.

One of the prisoner artists whose paintings were chosen said creating art provided an escape from the stresses of life. “I see the past and the present reflected in my artwork,” he said.

The other prisoner said he took up a paint brush later in life. “Painting gives me some peace, some calm. I believe I’m reconnecting and honouring my ancestors in my Country.”

As part of the education programs offered in WA custodial facilities, prisoners can undertake TAFE Certificate II training in Visual Arts and study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts through Curtin University’s Justice and Equity Through Art (JETA) program.

“Some prisoners have never even touched a brush before but through their exposure they’ve taken up art studies and gone on to complete a BA,” Department of Justice Arts Coordinator Sophie Davidson said.

“Being recognised for your intrinsic, unique artistic talents is something that no one can take away from you,” Ms Davidson said.

“When you’re making some successes in your art making, you’ve got better potential in making successes in other aspects of your life.”

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