Media office

Archives 2010
Archives 2009
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
True Stories


These works of art carry both spiritual significance and a vivid sense of East Kimberley country - an ancestral landscape of epic ranges etched in profile against endless blue skies. 
 Hetti Perkins, Curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales

True Stories: Art of the East Kimberley is an exhibition of Aboriginal art from the East Kimberley region of Western Australia featuring 80 paintings, sculptures and works on paper from circa 1976 to the present.

Highlighting the work of over twenty East Kimberley artists, the exhibition features significant works by pioneering artists including Rover Thomas, Paddy Jaminji, George Mung Mung, Queenie McKenzie, Jack Britten and their contemporaries, Hector Jandany, Rusty Peters, Paddy Bedford and Madigan Thomas, who continue to be the driving force of this distinctive Australian art movement.

From the resinous earthy surfaces of the early 1980s boards to the brightly coloured ochres found in paintings of the present day, East Kimberley art continues to enthral with its symbiotic expression of past and present. While the works are strikingly contemporary in their execution, the artists continue to be inspired, as Paddy Bedford says, by the "true stories ... from the olden days".

Gija artists, whose country covers a vast area of the region, make a major contribution to True Stories. They are joined in the exhibition by artists from neighbouring Miriwoong, Gajirrawoong, Kukatja and Wangkajunga country. A suite of eleven Kurrirr Kurrirr boards that are often recognised as being the archetype of contemporary Gija painting will be exhibited. This group of works, painted mostly by senior Gija artist Paddy Jaminji in 1983, were created for ceremonial use under the instruction of Rover Thomas.

True Stories features a core group of paintings by the late Kukatja-Wangkajunga artist Rover Thomas, acknowledging the groundbreaking role this distinguished artist played in bringing the emerging emerging art movement of the East Kimberley region to national and international attention. In 1990 Rover Thomas represented Australia along with fellow Aboriginal artist Trevor Nickolls at the Venice Biennale.

East Kimberley paintings operate on many levels underscored by the ancestral stories – the "true stories" – that explain the creation of the landscape, such as the scattering of the giant barramundi's scales that became the Argyle diamonds. Intertwined with these stories are the layers of recent history – the massacres and dispersals of Aboriginal people, the pastoral era and mining exploration of their land.

References to the past and present are often juxtaposed on the painted surface. In these works the ancient topography becomes synchronous with the landmarks of today where, for instance, an artist may depict the Great Northern Highway cutting a swathe through their homelands."
Hetti Perkins, Curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales

True Stories reveals the connections and influences that exist between artists and communities. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has sought guidance and permission from the artists and elders of the East Kimberley and has worked collaboratively with the Warmun Arts Centre in Turkey Creek, Jirrawun Arts of Juwurlinji/Kununurra, Waringarri Arts and Red Rock Art, both of Kununurra. A short film created in collaboration with the artists especially for the exhibition, presents the stories behind the paintings through interviews with the artists and visits to their country.

Eight artists from the East Kimberley communities and key contributors to the art movement will participate in a one day symposium on Saturday 11 January 2003 providing an unprecedented insight into the Aboriginal culture of the region. (see details below)

A comprehensive programme of education activities run throughout the exhibition’s duration and includes floor talks, a film programme, workshops and performance (see details below).




Wednesday 15th January 1.30pm
Join Gija artists for an enlightening floor talk and gain an insight into East Kimberley art.

Wednesday 16th April 1.30pm
Join Jonathan Jones, Coordinator Aboriginal Programmes, to discuss the 'true stories' of contemporary East Kimberley art.


Monday – Friday 11am


Tuesday – Saturday 12 noon
An exciting mix of traditional and contemporary performance.


26 February - 23 March 2.30pm
Wednesdays and Sundays  Domain Theatre Lower Level 3
A selection of films that portray the diversity of the country and culture of the Kimberley region, including documentaries and feature films.


Saturday 11 January 10am – 5pm
Lunch, morning and afternoon tea included
Artists and academics offer a comprehensive insight to the historical and contemporary context of Aboriginal art of the East Kimberley. Through a stimulating mix of artist talks, discussions and lectures the programme will address the development of the art movement, the educative role of art in the community and the legacy of senior artists. Chaired by Hetti Perkins, Curator of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art
$80 full  $70 AGS  $50 conc.
Bookings essential: (02) 9225 1740



11 January – 27 April
Explore the art of the East Kimberley, its fields of ochres, dots and abstracted designs, and experience the many contemporary and creation stories of the country.
With the Children's Guides. Free


Gain an insight into the diverse Aboriginal cultures and stories of the East Kimberley region through the work of contemporary Gija and associated Mirriwoong, Walmajarri, Wankajungka and Kukatja artists.
1 hour
$66 per group of 15 or less

Bookings essential for all programmes
Tel: (02) 9225 1740
Fax: (02) 9221 5129


True Stories: Art of the East Kimberley is sponsored by Qantas.
In association with Sydney Festival.
Argyle Diamond Limited is proud to support the production of the True Stories short film.


On view:Saturday 11 January to Sunday 27 April 2003
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain,
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Telephone:61 2 9225 1744 or
recorded information 61 2 9225 1790
National Toll Free 1800 679 278
Hours:10am to 5pm 7 days a week
Art After Hours Wednesday nights until 9pm
from 8 January 2003
Admission:Free of charge
Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten, Press Office
Telephone 61 2 9225 1791 or 0418 279 348

IMAGE CREDIT: Paddy Bedford Gija, Rugan (Crocodile Hole) WA, Untitled 1999, natural pigments on linen canvas
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales