This NT-Based Youth Worker/Artist Explores Notions Of Identity, Belonging and Otherness In Vivid Colour

Alongside his painting practice, Zak Tilley is a youth worker in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). He runs arts engagement workshops in a community development program across arts centres on Luritja Country.

Zak’s latest collection of electric, vivid landscape paintings is inspired by time spent in Finke Gorge National Park, Mpulungkinya (Palm Valley) and the Mpaara Walk. In these works, the artist explores his conflicted relationship to the terrain, touching on notions of identity, belonging, and otherness.

Sasha Gattermayr

Left: Photo – Zak Tilley. Right: Zak in the studio. Photo – Sara Maiorino.


Left: Right: . Photos – Zak Tilley.

Photo – Zak Tilley.

Photos – Zak Tilley.

Photo – Zak Tilley.

Photos – Zak Tilley.

Sasha Gattermayr
17th of February 2022

Zak Tilley grew up in Western Sydney, graduating from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014, and exhibited his first solo show in 2018.

‘I personally found art school challenging, in that it wasn’t user-friendly for me or my practice,’ he says. ‘It took several years after graduating to become comfortable with my skill, and find the courage to express myself through art.’

The pressure to develop an authentic, personal art practice that fits the mould of institutional ‘success’ can be filled with anguish, but this ‘outsider’ mentality is something that Zak carries into his painting now.

The large-scale vivid, canvases that make up his new exhibition, ‘The Few and Far’ depict an electric, even violent landscape, rendered from a conflicted perspective. In these works, Zak plays with a nostalgic ‘Australiana’ palette, evoking the colours of an often narrativised landscape, and critically reflecting on his position within it.

‘As I explore and paint my surrounds of Central Australia, I feel I am able to confront, critique and process my inner conflicts, which embody ideas of identity, belonging, and otherness, against an intimate but necessarily colonial relationship with the Australian landscape,’ he says.

Through his practice, Zak is constantly processing fables of Australian identity, challenging its truths, and grappling with his position in grand national narratives.

‘The Few and Far’ will be on show at Otomys from February 17th.

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