Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Kellyville

Exhibition a celebration of Indigenous art


Catholic Outlook Dec 2014/Jan 2015: Indigenous Art Show
Artist in residence Barbara Weir from the Utopia community. Photography: Alfred Boudib

Originally published in Catholic Outlook Dec 2014/Jan 2015

An exhibition of Indigenous art saw seasoned art collectors, arts and culture aficionados, and those who have a simple curiosity about Indigenous art, gather at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall recently.

The Indigenous Art Show, which ran from 24-26 October 2014, was opened by the Hon Anthony Roberts, State Minister for Resources and Energy.

The artist in residence was Barbara Weir from the Utopia community. Utopia has special meaning to art collectors. It is home to a world famous Indigenous Australian community of artists about 350km north-east of Alice Springs.

It has produced remarkable artists such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who took up painting when she was 70. Her stunning works are displayed in galleries around the world, and even form part of the Vatican’s art collection.

Barbara Weir is Emily’s niece and was born at Bundy River Cattle Station in the Utopia region in 1945. Her late mother was the famous Indigenous Australian artist Minnie Pwerle and her father was Irishman Jack Weir. Their relationship was considered illegal under the racial laws of the time and both were jailed. Jack Weir died not long after he was released.

Barbara was taken away from her family as one of the Stolen Generation when she was nine years old. She lived in a series of foster homes in Alice Springs, Ipswich, Darwin and Victoria. At 18 she married and went on to have six children.

Eventually, Barbara was reunited with her mother and returned to live in Utopia in the 1960s where she relearnt the Indigenous dialects and took up painting.

She is considered a very accomplished artist with a highly experimental approach. She paints in a variety of different styles. In 1994, she was part of a group of Utopia artists who travelled to Indonesia to learn batik. Her paintings depict plants including grass seeds, ‘dreamings’ and the landscape of Utopia.

There is a strong connection between the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta and Utopia. Rev Dr Arthur Bridge from St Anthony’s Parish at Toongabbie is a passionate supporter of the arts and has travelled often to Utopia.

Father Arthur is considered a patron of the arts, and is founder and CEO of Ars Musica Australis, which helps raise funds for Indigenous artists. Funds raised at the Indigenous Art Show will support the work of both Ars Musica Australis and the Diocese.

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