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Artwork depicting Aboriginal strength and everyday heroism finalist at the 2020 NATSIAA awards

Marri Ngarr artist, Dr Ryan Presley Source: Dr Ryan Presley

Crown Land (till the ends of the earth) is an artwork by Dr Ryan Presley that’s been shortlisted for the 2020 NATSIAA Awards.

In a conversation with NITV Radio Dr Rayn Presley explained that Crown Land (till the ends of the earth) utilises canonical Christian iconographic traditions as a foundational starting point

The artist says that through this artwork his aim is to illustrate the pressures on Aboriginal people and communities by colonialism in the contemporary era.

Crown Land (till the ends of the earth) is a large oil painting using synthetic polymer and 23k gold on canvas.

The painting references the St George and the Dragon narrative, instead replacing the soldier with a young Aboriginal woman battling the grotesque dragon which occupies the countryside.

“It is about the story of a foreign soldier who comes into a township community and slays the dragon, which is always since antiquity, the symbol of evil and enemy and then takes control of the City.”

The central figure represents strength, persistence, beauty, resistance and everyday heroism of Aboriginal people today.

“I took the patriarchal figure and replaced it with an Aboriginal woman as the hero protecting the land.”

Dr Presley explained that he used Christian iconography because it is very familiar.

“I think this iconography uses quiet beautiful images in their format. It is based on simplified types of imagery but they also convey a lot of drama and meaning… I think they are useful for that familiarity.”

The Mari Ngarr artist furthers explained that his artwork draws from his lived experience growing up as a teenager in the thick of the Northern Territory Intervention and its underlying discriminatory policies.

Crown Land is a reflection of pressures such as NTER policies that are still in effect, mining and exploitative industries in the region and local ramifications from global conflict.

The central figure represents strength, persistence, beauty, resistance and everyday heroism of Aboriginal people today.

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