The sad death from cancer has been announced of one of the most characterful women in the colourful world of Indigenous art. Di Kershaw – partner of Mick – had an inoperable stomach cancer which she told few about as she suffered. She was 77.
She began life as a model, married Mick young and latterly became a beloved and acerbic voice on the TV program, ‘Gogglebox‘. But, in between, she and Mick establish an art gallery that morphed more and more into the Indigenous and became the Australian Art Print Network – now the Australian Art Network – with premises on Oxford Street, Sydney. With the onset of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair and generous Queensland state funding, the Network was able to tour exhibitions to New York, France and Switzerland. They also opened up a branch in Cairns and promoted the wonderful prints that were pouring out of the studios of mostly expat Torres Trait Islander artists of the calibre of Dennis Nona and Alick Tipoti.
Canopy Artspace also gave their first exhibitions in a commercial gallery to Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre, Girringun Art Centre and Hope Vale Arts & Culture Centre.
According to that fine journal of record, the ‘Daily Mail‘, “She convinced her husband to give up his high-flying job as an advertising executive in order to follow their passion for art. They ran an Aboriginal art gallery and dealership for more than three decades. After a long career in the industry, Di was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2020 for her service to the visual arts”.
And folks in the TV business have responded, “’For the past eight years, we were privileged to have her luminescent character make us chuckle with her sardonic wit, crackling laugh and her impeccable style on Gogglebox”.
Outside TV, her greatest triumph was almost certainly the project, ‘Australia : Defending the Oceans’ which filled the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco in 2016. As her press release put it:
“This installation presents six site specific projects across three floors, including artworks inside and outside the Museum walls. Fifty high profile Australian artists presenting work include Alick Tipoti of Badu, Brian Robinson of Waiben (‘Thursday Island’), and Sydney artist Jason Christopher who is working with Ken Thaiday Snr of Erub on sculpturally upscaling his work. As well, a number of artists from remote communities will present works, including Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre (North Queensland), Erub Arts (Torres Strait), Pormpuraaw Art Centre (Cape York) and Ceduna Arts and Cultural Centre (South Australia). Together the artists provide a visually spectacular showcase of contemporary Australian art. They also paint a vivid picture of the cultural revival which has been building momentum in the Torres Strait this decade, and which is seeing next generation artists invigorate old world traditions with new world artistic practices”.
Most famously Tipoti covered the roof of the Museum with a 670sq mtrs stencil floor work, ‘Turtle Mating and Nesting Season‘. The exhibition also introduced Europe to both the problems posed by and the artistic solutions found for ghost nets. It went on to the UN.
From a personal point of view, any exhibition opening that was graced by Di Kershaw’s presence was sure to involve lively and pertinent conversation.