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Healing and many other things
Artist Profile: Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith is a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of western NSW. She was born in Erskineville in 1957, the fourth of Eleanor and Matthew James Smith’s five children. As a child, Sharon was very close to her extended family. Sharon’s grandparents lived with her and her father in their family house.

Sharon is inspired in her artistic journey as an Aboriginal woman from the Wiradjuri nation. She is constantly returning to her heritage and culture and her artwork in its many forms is a constant affirmation of her identity.

“I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until 2009,” she says. “I enrolled in an arts course at Eora TAFE. Our teacher was the late Chico Monks. I remember I couldn’t find inspiration. I said, ‘Where’s it going to come from?’ Chico said, ‘It’ll just come to you.’

“So, I kept at it. I’d think about my father and grandmother – I’d think back to how they used to live. And I’d remember when I was young, growing up with my sisters and brothers. Then I was inspired, I started to paint.”

Chico Monks encouraged Sharon to join Boomalli. She remains a member of the cooperative and regularly contributes work – paintings as well as ceramic jewellery and woven baskets – to exhibitions.

“Weaving is interesting. We use raffia a lot, and native grasses like lomandra. I also collect gum nuts, emu feathers. No basket is the same. Each involves responding to the materials. I have several pieces – including necklaces and earrings – available at the Boomalli shop.”

Sharon’s work reflects a love of the natural world, and through her depictions of landscapes, trees and animals explores her own personal connection with her people’s age-old relationship to the earth.

“Trees of Knowledge” is a good example. “It’s about an experience of Country – the Lachlan River near Cowra,” the artist explains. “The bark, the medicines and healings.

“I like to use earthy colours, and different parts of the brush. Sometimes I take photos [while on Country], but mostly I walk and observe, then create the painting later in the studio [in Waterloo]. It’s quite immediate then. I paint on a long table or on the floor. I don’t make preliminary sketches.

“I can tell my daughter what the symbols mean, and she knows how to read the work. She’ll keep the story and pass it on.”

Sharon was a finalist in the Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize 2014 and in the Fisher’s Ghost art prize in 2015. Her work adorns an NRMA billboard on the Golden Highway into Dubbo. Artworks have been commissioned by the University of Sydney, Redfern Legal Service and the Department of Community Services.

She will exhibit work in the May members show at Boomalli.

To see more of Sharon’s work or to contact her, visit her Facebook page (Sharon Smith Wiradjuri Artist) or Boomalli.

Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, 55-59 Flood St, Leichhardt: https://boomalli.com.au

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