Wollongong Art Gallery celebrates 40 years with mural designed by Indigenous artist Warwick Keen

Work in progress. Picture: Warwick Keen
Work in progress. Picture: Warwick Keen

Scroll down for special events as part of The Gathering exhibition.

Cultural diversity in the Illawarra community is the centrepiece for an art installation marking the 40th anniversary of the Wollongong Art Gallery.

Painter Simon Thomas from Chalk Talk is recreating a colourful design by one of the South Coast’s most renowned contemporary Indigenous artists, Warwick Keen, which will span 50 metres around the gallery.

Keen said he felt “pretty chuffed” to be asked to design the piece which uses his signature style to reflect the land, the diversity of culture in the region and positive statements about the community.

“[The gallery] seem to be very positive in what they do, especially around Indigenous artists; the different programs they have on,” he said.

He also thanked Thomas for putting in the “hard work” as he was unable to be in Wollongong to paint it himself.

Indigenous artist Warwick Keen in front of a mural he designed which is currently being painted on the side of Wollongong Art Gallery. Picture: Supplied

Indigenous artist Warwick Keen in front of a mural he designed which is currently being painted on the side of Wollongong Art Gallery. Picture: Supplied

Of Keen’s design, Thomas said it was going to look spectacular and stand out once complete. He said he was also excited to be part of the project after having a long history with the public gallery but not so much because of his own artworks.

“As my kids grew up we used to walk past it and my daughter would want to come in everyday, everyday we would go in there. I’ve got a bit of a personal connection,” Thomas said.

Keen, who also teaches at TAFE NSW, has spent the last 40 years creating art and proactively participating in group and solo exhibitions.

“Most of my time is spent either creating my own artworks or passing my skills, knowledge and experience onto others,” Keen writes on his website. “My search for greater understanding in relation to my own Aboriginal identity still continues today and yet I am  still interested in and I still practice producing mainstream imagery also.”

Keen will also be speaking about the development of his designs for the mural at a free artist talk at the gallery on Wednesday, March 7.

The creation of the mural also coincides with The Gathering exhibition showing contemporary and historic works of different mediums by Indigenous artists from February 24 until May 6.

The mural was made possible through Wollongong City Council’s Public Art Program.


Chico Monks Artist Talk

Wednesday 7 March at 11am -12noon

Indigenous artist and educator Chico Monks will discuss his art practice and his works on display in The Gathering. These works invite the viewer to relive and connect to the traditional symbology of the shield, integrating the modern medium of comic book illustration to draw it into the present, thus reminding the viewer that battles are not over. Free.

Peter Hewitt Artist Talk

Wednesday 7 March at 1pm – 1.30pm

Through his work local Indigenous artist and educator Peter Hewitt outlines a personal perspective that encourages discourse and raises inquiries about accepted Indigenous identity labels and provide a multi-textual standpoint as both an Aboriginal person and urban-based abstract painter.

Peter will discuss his current painting practice and work on display in The Gathering. Free.

Warwick Keen Artist Talk

Wednesday 7 March at 1.30pm – 2pm

Local Indigenous artist Warwick will speak about the development of the designs for the Cultural Conversations mural on the Eastern side of the Gallery building and his role as artist/ teacher as well as current art practice and other public art projects that he has been involved in.

His large text based mural Cultural Conversations created for Wollongong City Gallery‘s 40th Anniversary celebrations through Wollongong City Council’s Public Art Program is a new, exciting and powerful artwork in the city that reflects the region’s important Indigenous history, the essential role of art and culture in the community and the Gallery’s role as a major regional cultural centre. Free.

Black Wallaby Indigenous Writers’ Night

Thursday 3 May, 6 – 8.30pm

Book launch of Dreaming Inside Volume 6. Readings by Black Wallaby Writers Aboriginal art auction.

Black Wallaby Writers, Aunty Barbara Nicholson and John Muk Muk Burke, and guest writers Lachlan McPherson and Gabrielle Journey Jones will be reading from the latest issue, highlighting Indigenous voices from within prison. Refreshments provided. Cost: $5

Presented in partnership with South Coast Writers Centre and Sydney Writers Festival

Sharing Knowledge – Enrichment Program for Indigenous students

10am – 2:30pm. Stage 1: Tuesday 1 May /Stage 2 & 3: Wednesday 2 May / Stage 4 & 5: Thursday 3 May / Stage 6: Friday 4 May

Visual Arts and Aboriginal Education National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week event. A Partnership between Wollongong Art Gallery and Public Schools NSW.

Free, though bookings required: (02) 4227 8506 or email: jdanilov@wollongong.nsw.gov.au