Nerrany-ngeng (mystery) Paintings
09 March to 02 April 2016
115 Hay St Subiaco, Western Australia
"This is country but you have to look at it closely to see it and that's what you have to do with culture... it's the same with my paintings."
Ben Ward’s mystery paintings of tessellating triangles contrasting in various coloured ochres create a hypnotic and cryptic picture. As your eyes focus on the sharp triangular shapes, a landscape appears of rust coloured mountains, deep green valleys, meandering blue rivers and gushing waterfalls. Ward paints his Country,Bilbiging and Old Argyle Downs Station, south of Kununurra, using a unique
iconography developed over the past three years.
He insists it’s not simply a beautiful image. “It’s much more than that. When you see a landscape there are layers of knowledge that is unseen.” Ben refers to the layers of cultural knowledge that are passed down to the younger generation over many years. Knowledge of the land and its people - their ancestors, their laws, language, dances, songs and medicines.“ It’s like a school and if we don’t teach our young ones, it will be lost.”
Preventing the loss of land and culture are key themes Ward reflects upon in his artwork. Several works in the Nerrany-ngeng (Mystery) paintings exhibition depict his Country at a time before it was flooded by the construction of the Lake Argyle Dam. Ward paints from memory, recording what once was. Further hidden meanings reside in his work through the clever use of contemporary symbols such as nuclear waste signs. Utilising these symbols, Ward indicates where damage to specific sacred sites has occurred. Subtle and not so subtle, these elements bring together the complex knowledge and messages Ward manifests through his artwork for the benefit of his people as well as broad audiences.