News and Events
Congratulations to Warkartu and Sonia Two artists that Short St Gallery represents have taken out the top prizes in the Western Australian art awards, congratuations to them both!!

Here is the article from the West Australian....

Two painters from the same Kimberley art centre have taken the top two prizes at the nation's richest Aboriginal art awards.

Senior Fitzroy Crossing artist Wakartu Cory Surprise's suite of bright, energetic paintings of her traditional country in the Great Sandy Desert took out the $50,000 top national prize at the WA Indigenous Art Awards tonight.

Sonia Kurarra, also from the Mangkaja Arts centre in Fitzroy Crossing, won the $10,000 WA-only category in the awards announced at the Art Gallery of WA.

The 81-year-old Surprise, whose works hang in the National Gallery of Australia and collections in the US, Britain and Germany, described the result as a great success for an art centre founded in the 1980s to relieve poverty, helplessness and cultural loss.

\"All the people there will be happy,\" she said through her niece and interpreter Mary Spinks. \"We are representing a lot of people, a big mob.\"

Surprise's four paintings in the exhibition - Ngurrantinti Jila, Bimarral Jila, Warla and Wayampararti - pulsate with an ebullience to match the personality of the artist barely constrained by the wheelchair in which she sat at the gallery.

Her works were selected as the best of the 16 finalists chosen from the 185 nominations from across Australia.

The annual awards, described by the Government last year as the cornerstone of its support for developing indigenous visual arts, were to have been held every second year after 2010.

However, Culture and Arts Minister John Day said tonight that the awards would be held again next year to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November before becoming biennial.

The prestige of the nation's richest indigenous art prize would be an impressive showcase for CHOGM, Mr Day said.

Curator Glenn Iseger-Pilkington said Surprise and Kurarra both showed a strong use of colour, layering and their paintings emanated obvious power for the viewer.

\"Wakartu's work in particular projects an authority and a real strength that reflected her position in the community,\" Iseger-Pilkington said. \"The work is quite reflective and asks somebody to pause and take it in.\"

The 16 finalists demonstrated the diversity of paintings, sculpture, video art and photography being created by artists across Australia, he said. Urban east-coast artists Christian Thompson, Richard Bell and the artist rea , for example, were using digital media to tackle questions of identity, history, memory and the body politic.

Surprise, who paints the waterholes, hills and sand dunes of Parrjalpartu, her mother and father's country, won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 1997 and the WA category in the AGWA awards last year.

\"I like painting, it's good,\" she said. \"I get pamarr (money) for it. I can buy my food, tyres and fix my car. I give some money to my family and I keep some for myself.\"

Surprise was born in the desert around 1929 and walked out of the bush as a young woman with her two brothers after the death of her parents. She later worked as a cook and cleaner on pastoral stations across the Kimberley before moving to Fitzroy Crossing, where she started painting with Mangkaja in the 1980s.

\"Nobody taught me how to paint, I put down my own ideas. I saw these places for myself, I went there with the old people.\"

The 58-year-old Kurarra grew up in the river country at Yungngora (Noonkanbah), where she used to help the kindergarten teacher with teaching art.

She began painting at Mangkaja in the early 1990s, painting the sandy billabong country and the barramundi and other fish in the Fitzroy River that runs next to the community.

Kurarra said she was very happy to see her work in the gallery along with the other finalists. \"You want to take one?\" she laughed.
The WA Indigenous Art Awards also have a people's choice category with a $5000 prize to be announced at the end of the exhibition in January.