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Karina Coombes & Joanne Nasir

Golden Years commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum through the work of two Indigenous women artists: Karina Coombes (Pirlangimpi, Melville Island) and Joanne Nasir (Darwin). ‘Golden’ also evokes their shared ochre palette as painters and the sense of ‘old’ and recent work, particularly with the selection of Joanne’s paintings which span a much longer art career. The seed for this exhibition was born at the 2016 NT Expo where Karina and Joanne were displaying their work at nearby, separate stalls, their parallel interests in bold and innovative composition apparent. While their work does not directly address the 1967 Referendum, it shares its central themes of social justice and self-determination. Joanne’s work has, for example, focused on histories of incarceration and forced removal in commemorating the 100th anniversary of Kahlin Compound in 2013. Both artists celebrate their particular Indigenous cosmologies and continue to give it new and original form.

Joanne Nasir (b. 1961) has been making art in earnest since the mid-1980s. She is primarily a painter who has also worked across a range of graphic and textile design mediums. She has family affiliations across the NT: Garrawa (Borroloola), and Djugan/Yawuru (Broome), and with connections to the Tiwi Islands as a descendant of the Stolen Generations. Joanne set up her first design company Yurra Yiminga (Two Suns) in the late 1980s and saw success at the International Textile Trade Expo (Darling Harbour, Sydney) and the first Northern Territory Aboriginal Trades Expo. Joanne has held 6 solo exhibitions (in Broome, Darwin, and Sydney) and been involved in group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally. She has been awarded numerous design commissions (for eg., Careflight’s recent Reconcilation Action Plan) through her business Joanne Nasir Art and Design. Joanne also works a a senior trainer for Tanyah Nasir Consulting Service. Joanne cites close friend and mentor fellow Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas as a key influence along with fellow artists Jimmy Pike, Bronwyn Bancroft, Lin Onus, Trevor Nichols, Brenda Croft and (the late) Shane Pickett.

Karina Coombes (b. 1982) is a Tiwi artist from Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) on Melville Island who works through Munupi Arts. Her artistic career began in 2010 under the direction of her grandfather, the late Justin Puruntatameri, a revered artist and ceremonial leader whose own remarkable career as a painter was also then beginning in his late eighties. The Yirrikipayi (Crocodile) is a strong feature of Karina’s work which includes paintings of other animals such as her totems Jarrikalani (Turtle), and Takaringa (Mullet). Karina also paints the night sky as it appears over the Tiwi Islands.

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Joanne Nasir, ‘Kahlin 100 years on’, 2013, acrylic on linen; image courtesy the artist

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