The Artist Bringing Traditional Indigenous Weaving Onto The Canvas

Regina Pilawuk Wilson is a highly acclaimed artist, living and working the Peppimentarti community of north-western Australia. She draws upon her skilled knowledge of traditional weaving practices to create paintings on canvas of sun mats and fish traps that are both delicate and powerful

Michael Reid gallery presents an exhibition of her retrospective and new works, Deme Ngayi Nimbi – I made it with my hands in Sydney, showing from 26 September – 16 October.

Miriam McGarry

Photo – courtesy of Michael Reid Gallery.

Syaw, 2013 Regina Pilawuk Wilson. Photo – courtesy of Michael Reid Gallery.

Yerrdagarri (Message Stick), 2018 Regina Pilawuk Wilson.

Syaw – Fish Net, 2008 Regina Pilawuk Wilson.

Regina Pilawuk Wilson, 2019. Photo – courtesy of Michael Reid Gallery.

Miriam McGarry
3rd of October 2019

Artist Regina Pilawuk Wilson first started making her artwork in a formal sense in 2002, but has always been involved in cultural activities in her community. She explains ‘we used to teach the kids from school painting and weaving.’ Her work is inspired by her culture and ancestors, and she describes ‘they used to weave before my time, to keep stories alive and the culture strong.’

Regina lives and works in the north-western corner of Australia, in the Peppimenarti community, which she and her late husband Harry Wilson founded in 1973, with a group of Ngan’gikurrungurr people who left a Catholic mission to live on their traditional country. Regina explains ‘moving to Peppimenarti allowed us to continue the practice and build an arts centre that helps promote cultural participation. We needed to move back and look after our land and totem, not just the art.’

Deme Ngayi Nimbi – I made it with my hands is both a retrospective of Regina’s detailed and finely crafted work, and an opportunity to see new pieces she created recently while on residency in Sicily. The pieces are informed by teachings from her mother and grandmother, who passed on the practice of harvesting and weaving. Regina has taken this skill and transferred to painting, describing ‘my idea was to take weaving onto canvas.’

In addition to the painterly representations and translation of weaving on canvas, the exhibition also features three-dimensional woven pieces, which Regina explains ‘is a technique from my ancestors that has not been practice in over 40 years.’ After viewing similar work in a South Australian museum, the artist was inspired to reconnect with the practice or rolling ochre into merrepen (sand palm) to create woven pieces.

Regina’s travels and international residencies inform this exhibition, as she connects with other artists, landscapes and experiences. But her weaving and painting will always be connected to culture and her community. As she describes, travel can ‘change my choice of colour, but my messages stays the same. The symbols of my ancestors.’

Deme Ngayi Nimbi – I made it with my hands
Regina Pilawuk Wilson
Until October 16th
Michael Reid Gallery
Standard House 105 Kippax Street
Surry Hills

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