INDIGENOUS ART EXHIBIT
runs all September
Two artists responsible for some of the Illawarra's most iconic public artworks have quietly opened a small exhibition at one of Wollongong's hottest nightspots.
Last week, sisters Narelle Thomas and Lorraine Brown unveiled a small collection of artworks reflecting their indigenous heritage, at the Alibi bar on Crown Street.
Narelle and Lorraine are members of the Coomaditchie Artists' Co-operative, and their paintings are colourful, bright representations of natural elements native to the region: lizards, starfish, insects and plantlife.
"A lot of the paintings are our Dreaming stories, women's Dreaming stories and some local things that we see all around us," Narelle said.
Their work, if not their names, would be familiar to most Wollongong residents.
The sisters usually work collaboratively and have teamed up for the Blue Dreaming mural on the wall of Levendi seafood at Belmore Basin, the Sirens of Woolungah wall on the terrace below Levendi, the snake mural and mosaic on the front of the Dapto Ribbonwood Centre, and the Mount Kembla Memorial Pathway mosaic.
Lorraine also helped create the Gurungaty Fountain design by Wollongong Town Hall, and the art wall leading into Port Kembla at the corner of Wentworth Street and Five Islands Road.
The sisters have been working together for more than 20 years, their art exploring traditional stories of their people.
"We've done it like this ever since we started," Narelle said.
"Lorraine does more of the fine line work and I do a lot of the background, the dotting. It just works for us, because there's things I can paint and things I can't. We just always did things that way - even the big murals."
Narelle and Lorraine are the main forces of the Coomaditchie Artists' Co-operative. Sue Leppan from Coomaditchie said the sisters' work is a way for them to interact with and display their heritage on a deeper and more meaningful level.
"They are both community workers here too, and their art is a way of connecting with indigenous people to talk about culture, and to connect with non-indigenous people as well," she said.
"They are both East Coast Saltwater People, so everything is blues and greens of the coastline, not like the ochres of central Australia. Their work is about women's spirit, and the ocean."
Lorraine and Narelle have contributed about nine works to the exhibition, which also features a portrait of an Aboriginal elder created by another member of the Coomaditchie group.
The exhibit marks one year of Alibi hosting local art. Alibi's Paul Dunwell said he was keen to stage an exhibit dealing strongly with Illawarra values and history to mark the one-year anniversary.