This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

The Amazing Art-Making Of Thea Anamara Perkins

Studio Visit

Artist Thea Anamara Perkins is an Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman, with family ties to the Redfern community in Sydney. At just 29 years old, she’s been nominated for the Archibald Prize for the last three consecutive years, with her confident and courageous painting style. She imbues people and landscapes with emotion and vulnerability, and is known for her personal portraits of prominent First Nations figures.

Among her other accolades (she was a finalist in the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, The Alice Prize 2020 and has exhibited as part of Tarnanthi) Thea won the Australia Council’s Dreaming Award for emerging First Nations artists in 2020, which she plans to use to develop workshops with the Tangentyere Town Camp Artists in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). On top of that, she is a NATSIAA finalist for 2021, and is about to launch her first ever solo show – Shimmer – this month.

In case you haven’t worked it out yet, this is one young artist destined for very big things.

4th June, 2021

Artist Thea Anamara Perkins in her Sydney studio. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Thea’s emotional portraits brim with vulnerability and strength. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

She is known for her portraits of prominent First Nations figures, fusing the personal and political. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

For her first ever solo show, Shimmer, she examines what contemporary Aboriginal life in Australia with a special focus on the light and energy of matrilineal power. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

She brings the same energy to her landscapes, which vibrate with emotion. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tent Embassy‘, 2020. Winner of the Alice Prize in 2020. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

‘Shimmer, 3’ 2021, will be on show as part of her new exhibition.

Left: ‘Christian’ was Thea’s first portrait shortlisted for the Archibald Prize, in 2019. Right: ‘Gracie’ which was included in Tarnanthi, 2019. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Light floods her Sydney studio. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Thea has been shortlisted for the Archibald for the last three years. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Rachel‘ by Thea Perkins, shortlisted for the Archibald Prize 2021. This is a portrait of Thea’s aunt Rachel, a filmmaker in Sydney.

‘Station, 3’ by Thea Perkins.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 4th June 2021

‘I’ve come to realise that we’re all storytellers, and if we’re not speaking our own truths, we’re supporting the voices of others.’ – Thea Perkins

Thea Anamara Perkins comes from an exceptionally impressive creative family. Her mother is art curator Hetti Perkins; her sister is actor, Madeleine Madden; her grandfather is prominent Indigenous rights activist, Charles Perkins; and her aunt is renowned filmmaker, Rachel Perkins.

It was Thea’s portrait of her Aunt, Rachel Perkins, that earned her a spot in the shortlist for the 2021 Archibald Prize, marking the third year in a row she has been a finalist in the country’s most prestigious art award.

But at the root of this esteemed recognition lies a unique painting style and a strong, clear vision for the political and spiritual potency of art. Among Thea’s artistic inspirations are Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Gordon Bennett and Caravaggio – each titans in their craft. Thea’s work shivers with the ancestral connection to land and community of Kame Kngwarreye, the contrasting colour of Caravaggio and the political dynamism of Bennett.

Thea’s vivid paintings and portraits are renderings of contemporary Aboriginal life in Australia. For her first ever solo show, Shimmer, she asserts the rich and powerful joy of First Nations matriarchy, as well as its energy and light across land and memory.

‘The title is inspired by a public Arrernte women’s ceremony shared by our very senior knowledge-holder MK Turner OAM’, Thea explains. ‘The lyrics are “altyerre ayenge alhelharrke-parrkaye’ which translates to ‘I am a woman and I am shimmering.”‘ We spoke to Thea at her Sydney studio ahead of the exhibition opening.

Can you tell me a little about your creative journey so far, and how you came to be involved in art making? Do you have any early memories of this?

I’ve always naturally expressed my self through drawing. As I got older I realised the conceptual potential of art to communicate. I remember when I was quite young I cut out paper and used it to map out the halo of light around a candle in a dark room, and the shape of the light spilling onto the floor from a door that was slightly ajar. I’ve always been attuned to how light behaves, which can be beautifully articulated through shading in drawing – but particularly fascinating when explored through mixing paint and the complexities of colour science.

Are there any recurring themes present in your work?

The fallibility and shifting nature of memory, as well as its power – our experiences are so formative. What makes our connections to people and places endure. Using Western vernaculars to take authorship of First Nations representation, and using it for my own voice.

You come from a very creative family – how have they informed your practice, and your greater creative universe?

I’ve come to realise that we’re all storytellers, and if we’re not speaking our own truths, we’re supporting the voices of others. We’ve always been encouraged to think deeply and empathetically about issues, and to then take action.

What does art making mean to you – why is it important, and what do you hope to communicate?

Art-making is vital, it is a conduit for abstract ideas, distilled so that they can be comprehended. It is how we can understand ourselves and each other. I hope to transmute ineffable ideas in a clear and direct way. To always be striving for evolution.

Shimmer
Tuesday 8th June – 3rd July
Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm

N. Smith Gallery
6 Napier Street
Gadigal Country / Paddington, 2021

Similar Stories

Art

The Astounding Finalists Of The 100th Archibald Prize

Australia's highest portrait honour counts Grace Tame, Rachel Perkins, Del Kathryn Barton, Ben Quilty, Craig Foster and more amongst its pai...

Creative People

The Meaning Of Motherhood, With Actress Madeleine Madden + Curator Hetti Perkins

Ahead of Mother’s Day, we share a heartfelt and thought-provoking conversation between this accomplished mother-daughter duo.

Art

An Online Exhibition From Tangentyere Artists, Central Australia's 'Town Camp Artists'

From 18 communities around Mparntwe (Alice Springs) comes a diverse exhibition celebrating rain, colour and memories!
Sasha Gattermayr

This Week

Father's Day Favourites

Give Dad A Dose Of (Stylish) Wanderlust With Bespoke Luggage From July!

Gift dad bespoke luggage from our favourite travel brand July and receive a complimentary personalised luggage tag worth $85!

On The Market

A Former Shopfront Turned Architecturally-Designed Home In Coburg Hits The Market

Behind an unassuming facade unfolds a brilliantly designed and sun-filled Coburg home, and it's for sale!

Interiors

How This First-Time Renovator Transformed Her Pint-Sized Melbourne Apartment

A tiny renovation (34 square metres, to be precise) – that packs a big punch!

News

Shop Dreamy Pastel Landscapes In Collection III From ‘Palette by Jono Fleming’

Introducing interior stylist Jono Fleming’s third art collaboration with Sicilian-Australian artist Chanel Sohier.
Christina Karras

Father's Day Favourites

Announcing The Design Files Father's Day Favourites 2022!

Find the best gifts for dad and score special deals with our Father's Day Favourites online shopping event!

Father's Day Favourites

Shop Luxurious Outdoor Essentials For Dad With 20% Off The Grampians Goods Co.

This one is for the dads who love camping, picnics, and a hot cocoa by the fire! We've got 20% off The Grampian Goods Co.!
Christina Karras

Interiors

A Majestic Garden House That Transcends Aesthetics

The landscape is the mesmerising star of the show in Garden House by Arent&Pyke and Polly Harbison Design.

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.

Father's Day Favourites

Find The Perfect Book For Dad With 20% Off From Hardie Grant Publishing!

From the best barbecuing recipes to epic travel inspiration, you'll find the perfect book for dad in our edit of Hardie Grant Publishing's f...
Christina Karras

Architecture

Turning Back Time In A Classic Melbourne Brick Home

Agius Scorpo Architects strip a Yarraville, Melbourne house back to basics, revealing and enhancing functional spaces within.
Amelia Barnes
  4 hours ago

Father's Day Favourites

Elevate Your Dad's Wardrobe This Father's Day With An Epic 20% Off Seed Heritage!

Seed Heritage has everything you need to level up your gift-giving efforts and dad’s personal style - and we have a special 20% offer for
Christina Karras

Stays

Escape To An Adorable Country Cottage Overlooking The Grampians

Stoneycroft Cottage features a 1864-built bluestone cottage and converted shearer's quarters, on a picturesque farm in regional Victoria!
Christina Karras
  12 hours ago

Shopping

Kip&Co Team Up With Robert Gordon For A Fun-Filled Ceramic Range

The loveable local brands have created a new playful ceramics collection, bringing prints and colour to range of hand-crafted vases!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Inside Elena Strohfeldt's Beautifully Therapeutic Ceramics Practice

How the self taught artist started making ceramics as a way to work through a painful trauma, channeling it into whimsical vessels.
Christina Karras

News

Nicole Lawrence Studio And Curio Practice Pop Up In Sydney

The two rising design stars open the doors to their week-long shop and showroom in Paddington.

Similar Stories

Art

The Astounding Finalists Of The 100th Archibald Prize

Now in its centenary year, 52 finalists have been announced for Australia's highest portrait honour.

Creative People

The Meaning Of Motherhood, With Actress Madeleine Madden + Curator Hetti Perkins

A heartfelt and thought-provoking conversation between this accomplished mother-daughter duo.

Art

An Online Exhibition From Tangentyere Artists, Central Australia's 'Town Camp Artists'

From 18 communities around Mparntwe (Alice Springs) comes a diverse exhibition celebrating rain, colour and memories!
Sasha Gattermayr

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net