Butcher Cherel, the senior Gooniyandi man and innovative painter from Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley has died. He fell ill over Christmas, but had been painting up until then “ his last show running at the Aboriginal & Pacific Art Gallery in Danks Street, Sydney even as he died.
The elegantly bearded and invariably hatted Cherel generously attended many gallery openings in a painting career that began at the legendary Birukmarri Gallery in Freo in 1992. He painted exclusively for Mankaja Arts after a working life that had been spent as a stockman on Fossil Downs station. He was also a doubty fighter for land rights “ putting his name to four Gooniyandi Land Rights claims. In 2004 he was created a WA State Living Treasure.
Mangkaja Arts issued the following statement on Cherel’s death: He lived a life grounded in the knowledge, culture and identity of his southern Kimberley country. But he also lived with enormous generosity, sharing that knowledge and culture through his words, his actions and his art. It is for his presence, his leadership and his knowledge that Muludja community, the Fitzroy Crossing community and Mankaja Arts are today acknowledging an enormous loss.
Cherel’s art was subtle and very much his own thing, rarely using the brilliant colours of his fellow Ngurrara Canvas artists in Fitzroy, often tackling landscape as much as country. Many works were on paper rather than canvas, plus some ceramics and incised pearl-shells; and they can be found in the collections of the NGA, the NGV and the Art Gallery of WA; also the Holmes a Court, Kerry Stokes and Laverty Collections. Apart from the Aboriginal & Pacific Art Gallery in Sydney, Cherel showed recently with Brigitte Braun in Melbourne, Raft Artspace in Darwin and the Australian Art Print Network.