Sally Harrison’s artwork titled “The Magic Carpet’ has been acquired for the City of Ipswich Collection. Photo: David Nielsen
Sally Harrison’s artwork titled “The Magic Carpet’ has been acquired for the City of Ipswich Collection. Photo: David Nielsen

Artist taps into roots

LOWOOD artist Sally Harrison was stolen as a young girl and cut off from her Aboriginal roots.

But a recent trip to Western Australia was just one of several key journeys that enabled her to get back in touch with her culture and inspired a collection of stunning works that are on display at the Ipswich Art Gallery.

Harrison's "The Magic Carpet" is one of three works in the This Land Our Land exhibition that have been acquired by the Ipswich Arts Foundation for the gallery. The exhibition will have its official launch this evening.

The Magic Carpet features a large swathe of double-petal everlasting daisies situated among Mulga tree.

Harrison encountered the scene that inspired her picture on a visit to the Murchison district of Western Australia.

"The white ones grow on long brown stalks and when the breeze blows they make this whispering sound," she says.

"There are so many of them and they nod. It feels like a sin to walk through them because you are actually crushing them under foot.

"But it is a beautiful sensation. I had to lie down in them because I could not resist that feeling.

"You also get little pink ones that grow close to the ground and others in a soft mauve colour that have these dark purple stripes in them. The whole countryside is covered in them."

On the trip Harrison took photos of places of significance and then painted them.

"One of the reasons I wanted to go back was for the wildflowers because they have a huge emotional impact on me," she says.

"I also learned to dot paint in that region.

"For a long time I knew nothing about my culture. I was one of the Stolen Generations. I was put in a mission home until I was six and then I was adopted. After that everything was cut off to me.

"I have no tribal roots or connections as a result and that is why I paint this way. It is so easy to overstep the boundaries with Aboriginal art because you cannot paint the symbols of other tribes.

I'm not that good at it anyway. I am a visual artist and I like painting the land. I am part of the land and it calls to me. I jut have to share these feeling with people.

"With dotting you get completely different effects to what you do with conventional painting."

Harrison travelled to Western Australia as part of a regional arts development grant from the Ipswich Art Gallery. "I had spent a couple of years in the Gascoyne and Pilbara area before and it is unlike any other place on earth," she says.

"It is very remote and you feel alone with God. I think I found myself there. That is where I went to reconnect with my Aboriginality and learn about my culture."

Harrison has been painting since she was 10. Her ancestral lands are near Horsham in Victoria and she intends to go back to that area and explore it in future.

The other artworks acquired by the Ipswich Arts Foundation and on display in the gallery are Dale Weston's "Goanna Dreaming" and Annie Clarke's "Life".

Those works, along with many others by the three indigenous artists, will be on display at the Ipswich Art Gallery until September 2.