The Lockhart River Art Gang from Cape York Peninsula is made
up of young Aboriginal artists from the Lockhart River community.
The best known of these artists are Rosella Namok, Fiona Omeenyo,
Samantha Hobson, Silas Hobson, Adrian King and Terry Platt.
Their work now appears in every major Australian public gallery.
The concentration of talent is made even more remarkable by
their age: all are under 30 and have been painting since high
Short biographies are given below for a number of the Lockhart
River artists represented on our Web site:
Born in 1979, Rosella is an Ungkum speaker who grew up in Lockhart
River. Her initial art training was at high school and then through
the TAFE system. In 1997 she completed her training and took part
in workshops with leading Australian artists and printmakers organized
by the first art coordinators of the Lockhart River Arts and Culture
Centre, Fran and Geoff Barker. Rosella held a very successful
and influential exhibition in 1999 in Sydney. The success of this
show launched the reputation of the Art Gang.
Rosella began painting as a young girl when helping her
father to decorate the bodies of dancers with ochre paints
at traditional ceremonies. These ancestral markings are
still strong elements in her art today, together with
other traditional symbolic patterns learnt from her grandmother.
She paints using her fingers to mark the thick acrylic
layer, a method derived from the sand drawing style taught
to her by her grandmother.
Rosella has incorporated traditional aspects of her culture
into her paintings, such as the Kaapay and Kuyan moiety
stories, to prevent them from being lost to future generations.
She describes 'Kaapay and Kuyan' as follows: 'Everything
is divided two ways. . . people, lands, story places,
plants and animals. . . they belong one way or other way.
. . it's important you know which way.'
Other works illuminate more contemporary concerns,
exploring the difficult conditions under which Aboriginal people
still live today. Her paintings deal themes of violence, education,
health, justice and the breakdown of traditional value systems
in the modern world. Her paintings are an individual response
to the problems of maintaining life and vigour within her native
Rosella's work is included in all the major
Australian galleries and in some international collections.
Her work is often viewed as taking Aboriginal art in a new direction,
linking the traditional with the modern.
She was ranked amongst the 50 most Collectable
Artists in Australia by the Australian Art Collector magazine
for 2001 and 2002.
Namok's first major award was when she won
the Australian Heritage Commission's National Indigenous Art
of Place award in 1998. She held her first solo exhibition "'Bout
here" in 1999. In 2000 she won the Lin Onus Youth Art Award
and, in 2003, received the Australian Centenary Medal for "distinguished
services to Indigenous art.".
Samantha was born in the Lockhart River community in 1981 and
is a Kuuku Y'au speaker. She joined the Lockhart River Art Gang
in 1996 and her art training was through formal and informal
TAFE courses. This included practical workshops with leading
Australian artists such as Gary Shead.
Samantha's work, together with the work of other Lockhart River
Gang artists challenges accepted notions of what Aboriginal
art looks like. Samantha is one of the group's most complex
artists and her paintings are some of the most confronting to
emerge from them.
Her work often depicts concerns about domestic violence
and social conditions within the community.
Works suffused with strong swirls of colour capture the
essence of mangroves, country and vivid flames of bushfires.
Others are mixed with stark images of alcohol abuse, petrol
sniffing and drug abuse, youth suicide and domestic violence.
Samantha Hobson at work
She has had several solo exhibitions since her initial exhibition
in Brisbane in 2002 and her work is represented in major public
galleries across Australia.
Silas is a Kuuku Y'au / Wuthathi speaker who was born
in 1978 and grew up in Lockhart River. He is a regular
and committed worker at the Art Centre.
His paintings have developed a distinctive style and
imagery and his limited edition prints are of high technical
As he states: "My works are about my country and
animals and they are a contemporary response to the traditional
culture and isolation of my community." He is also
an avid football player and enjoys hunting and fishing.
Fiona Omeenyo is another member of the Lockhart River
Art Gang who is rapidly gaining a strong reputation for
her distinctive style and use of colour. In 2001 her solo
exhibition sold out on the opening night and her shows
have been consistently successful since then.
Fiona was born in 1981 and has been a member of the Art
Gang since the late 1990s. Her imagery is based on key
stories from the Umpila language group, and they relate
to their history, their ancestor spirits, and to their
relationship to their land.
A recurring theme in her work is the Umpila clan story
of Miiku who stole the two ancestral parrot-sisters before
their planned marriage to Kuchuuy, the sea eagle. The
sisters create the story place for her traditional country
at Chester River.
Fiona says: "I like to paint about country and stories
passed on to me by my family
it's good to understand these
stories so I can tell my kids about these story places and why
they are important to our family"
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Sources (both are available from our Online
"Gatherings: Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Art", edited by Marion Demozay, Keeaira Press
"Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest",
Queensland Art Gallery 2003