Walmajarri man Barry Nuggett grew up on Gogo Station just south of Fitzroy Crossing. His art practice has been life-long. Barry now lives at Bayulu, a community of around 300 people some 15ks from Fitzroy Crossing. He has been engaged in art-making since his school days. As a child he loved comics, particularly those featuring superheroes and cowboys and Indians, and says he learnt how to sketch the human figure by studying these. Now he also follows art and photography magazines for tips and inspiration. During high school he discovered the central Australian painters of the Hermannsburg School and was greatly inspired by their work, particularly their use of colour. He too began exploring watercolour and landscapes at this time.
As an adult Barry worked as a stockman on central and east Kimberley cattle stations. He describes covering his canvas swag in drawings using pen, pencil, texta or whatever was available. Mostly these were depictions of country, horses and cattle. He says a lot of the stockmen used to do this - they would also draw on their hats, station water tanks, ‘anything and everything!’
Most days Barry does his artwork at home. He says he gets up at around 5am to paint, naturalistic landscapes and sometimes acrylics in the now familiar colourful desert idiom of his Walmajarri forebears. He says he paints Walmajarri jilji (sand hill) and jila (waterhole) country only, (not the hills of other people’s country), sometimes including the dinjil tree. This iconic white-trunked species grows in sand hill country and is good for firewood, medicine and many other purposes.
He likes experimenting with different materials and techniques and he has taught himself lino-printing – mostly stylised portrayals of animals.
Afternoons are set aside for working with wood, carving boab nuts and making objects such as boomerangs in the ‘proper’ (traditional) way. In his youth he would watch his father Janjiny paint boomerangs, shields and other tools and ceremonial pieces, and when making these objects himself now he draws partly on skills he acquired through observing the older men.
Whilst he has started experimenting with abstract acrylic paintings most of the small body of work Barry has produced thus far at the art centre is comprised, not surprisingly, of incised painted metal panels. This is a technique developed recently by the men at the art centre as a deliberate strategy to extend their traditional carving skills into a more contemporary medium. He immediately produced figurative work clearly evidencing his skills in this area; finely etched depictions of parlka (barramundi), other freshwater fish, boab nuts and plants, distillations of the visual character of each form.