New Yarliyil Arts Centre Building Open


The Directors and artists of Yarliyil Art Centre in Halls Creek are very excited about officially opening their new art centre building on the 3rd May 2015. The new facility was built by the Shire of Halls Creek with funding from Royalties for Regions and Lotterywest. Since construction began in mid-2014 residents have watched with interest as the building began to take shape.

The new art centre has a dedicated Gallery as well as an artists’ workshop. For the last 5 years Yarliyil Artists have mostly painted from home due to lack of permanent workshop space in their current location. It is hoped that the senior artists in particular will enjoy use of the workshop, where younger generations will be able to learn from them. Yarliyil Art Centre intends for the new building to become an artistic and social hub for Halls Creek as well as a visitor attraction.

Desert River Sea travelled east to Halls Creek to explore the new building. We arrived a week before the official opening and Art Centre Coordinator Jeannette Swan treated us to a lengthy tour of the purpose built gallery space, storage areas and indoor and outdoor studio. Jeannette and newly appointed gallery assistant, Juanita Petrevski, had only just finished moving everything over from the previous premises and setting up the new space. A smoking ceremony had been scheduled for the following day and we were privileged to be there when artists Biddy Timbinah, Lulu Trancollino and Maggie Long arrived and saw the interior of the building for the first time. Biddy in particular expressed how touched she felt by the inclusion of paintings by the art centre’s most prominent male artist, who had passed away the previous year.

The Studio area was dedicated to this temporary display of Mr Brumby’s vibrant canvases. Arrayed on easels in this generous space they illustrate his ability in later life to work in an identifiable ‘Halls Creek painting style’ and yet develop its motifs into an aesthetic entirely his own. As advancing years caused an increasing physical frailty, so his style of dotting shifted away from a formal precision to become less precise. The authority with which he depicted his preferred subject matter (often the country around Wolfe Creek Crater for which he was a senior custodian) is reinforced by this more dynamic painted surface. Viewers are further drawn to his distinctive use of colour and form, often combining strong dark hues with vivid warm blues and purples in bold motifs and sparse dotting, lending a simultaneous delicacy and strength to his compositions. These works on display are a moving testament to the gentle nature of this Jaru man who, similar to many older Kimberley artists, spent his working life as a stockman caring for cattle and country across a wide swathe of the north.

Out the front, the Gallery area displays numerous works illustrating the diverse styles in which Halls Creek artists choose to work. Some of the younger emerging artists are experimenting with naturalism; there is certainly a history of landscape and figurative painting in the town, particularly amongst those working independently.  The group of senior women who are at the heart of painting activity at Yarliyil are working in a more classical tradition however, offering works steeped in history, culture and a desert aesthetic. They are colourful expositions of country, from the highly-keyed depictions of soak waters by Rosie Lala, to the loosely dotted meditations on distant tracts of land traversed by Biddy Timbanah and the linear blues of Lulu Trancollino’s Ord River country. In the few years since the art centre was re-established, there has also been abundant evidence of a willingness to experiment, particular in response to studio development projects.

Desert River Sea caught up with Jeannette Swan, Yarliyil Art Centre Coordinator, in the beautiful new gallery space last week. In the video below she tells us what the new building means for the artists and the community.

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