FROM MINING TO ART – A DJARU WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO CELEBRATING HER COUNTRY THROUGH PAINTING.
I'm an Aboriginal artist based in Western Australia (WA) but my path to becoming an artist did not start straight away. I will begin by telling you a little about my history before exploring how I came to create my paintings.
I'm a proud Djaru woman growing up in Halls Creek, located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. To put it into perspective for our international readers, Halls Creek is about 2,850 km north east of Perth – a distance nearly three times the length of the UK.
As a child, I lived on a small property with my mum, dad, younger brother and sister. My dad is a Djaru man and his country is Sturt Creek, around 210 km south of Halls Creek. Djaru is both an Aboriginal nation and a language spoken by the Djaru people.
I went to primary school in Halls Creek and high school in Perth, before going to agricultural college for two years in Emerald, Queensland. I left ag school to work in the mining, oil and gas industries, employed in a community relations capacity by some of the biggest mining companies in Australia and the world. Initially, I worked at Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond mine before moving to Port Keats in the Northern Territory to work with ENI Australia. I returned back to WA in 2010 where I worked for Woodside in the Pilbara.
There is where my art journey begins. When I was in the Pilbara, I was lucky enough to be part of an art group based at the Yinjaa-Barni Arts Centre in Roebourne. It was the support of the manager at Yinjaa-Barni Art who helped me develop my approach to painting and my style.
While I was working for Woodside in Roebourne in the role of Indigenous Affairs, I worked with the Yinjaa-Barni Art Centre to secure artworks for the annual Woodside Art Exhibition held in Perth. This is how I became part of the group. I learnt how to refine my painting skills and how to use different mediums, such as sand and ochre to get different effects.
My style is contemporary and I use both a natural medium, ochre, and acrylic to paint. Most people choose one or the other but I decided to combine the two. I like the way it worked on the canvas but, most importantly, I wanted my painting to reflect my whole identity. The ochre represents my Aboriginal identity, whereas acrylic is a white person’s medium and I have whitefella in my heritage too so I want to recognise that.
My inspiration for my artwork comes from the country that I live in and where I'm from. I reflect the land, my country and the places I’ve been. If you look at my art it is like looking at an aerial photo. Each painting shows different areas and features, everything from rivers and creeks to the grasses and flowers that decorate my country.
Despite the prolific nature of her work, Bianca is only painting part-time and wants to spend more time on her art. “At the moment I paint on the weekends. I really love doing it and I find it relaxing. But I want to focus on my art and promoting it to a wider group of people. I’m proud of my country and I’m proud of where I’m from. My art is one way for me to represent my country and respect my elders, past and present, acknowledging how hard they fought for our land.”
The connection to country is important for me as an Aboriginal person.
As a young girl I can remember when our whole family would go out bush, camping and fishing. I remember thinking how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place where you could hear the birds singing, see animals and insects, and see the different colours of the hills and country around you.
This feeling for the country where I grew up stayed with me through my teenage years and is still with me as an adult. There is a big significance to the area where I grew up. The land, the landscape and the beauty is undeniable – there are a lot of special places.
My paintings are on display at the Emporium I own with my husband in Wyndham, and my work has also been translated into a variety of different mediums. One painting was purchased by mining giant FMG and the design was used to make scarves and ties for VIPs. My paintings have also been the inspiration for two jewellery ranges, as well as appearing on pillow cases and cups. I have even painted a mural in the town of Wyndham where I call home. Soon, I will launch a brand new fashion range.