The current QAGoMA exhibition, ‘My Country : I Still Call Australia Home‘ has alerted me to the work of the late Vincent Serico, whose painting, Carnarvon Collision (2006) reflects a naïve artist’s take on ghastly events in the history of Aboriginal/White relations in Queensland.

Serico was born in 1949 in Brisbane and brought up on Cherbourg Reserve after being ‘stolen’ from his family at age 4. Later, he worked with Dick Roughsey on Mornington Island in the 70s, which is where his figurative imagery probably originated. He died in 2008 in Toowoomba. Officially his Languages are Wakka Wakka & Kabi Kabi. But his Father was from the Carnarvon Ranges in Central Queensland “ an area of rich Indigenous history, but few living Jiman people. The deceptively peaceful picture shown in Vincent’s painting was not reflected in the early contact history in which violent killings occurred on both sides.

As both Val Donovan in her great book ‘The Reality of a Dark History’ and local Carnarvon historian Grahame Walsh make clear, unsympathetic squatters in the 1860s outlawed the blacks from their own country, as the more understanding Frederick Walker put it at the time. He went on, They were hunted from the River and the Creek frontages and thus deprived of means of lawfully obtaining food. Driven to desperation, they carried on a constant war of retaliation with the whites and lived solely on cattle. It also seems that at Hornet Bank Station, which Serico had in mind, the lusty sons of the station were notoriously famous for the Young Gins.

Did this justify the massacres of 20 white station owners and hands in two separate incidents by angry Jiman? And did that justify what Governor Bowen later estimated as the ongoing massacre of 600 Aborigines – “most of my Grandfather’s people”, as Serico puts it – by vengeful squatters and the notorious Native Police in the years to 1866?

Many of Serico’s paintings document significant events in his life or of previous generations as Indigenous people struggled with cultural and lifestyle changes. Over forty years, Vincent interpreted the whispers “ from both land and people “ during his journies through regional, remote and rural Queensland.

As well as his paintings, working towards the end of his life with his Fireworks Gallery in Brisbane, Serico produced a limited edition folio, Some people are stories, published after his death in 2009. It consists of 22 images that convey the artist’s view of history in a dense hive of colour and activity. The folio includes a raft of stories along with interview notes and quotes by Vincent collected between 1993 and 2007. In an edition of just 49, the cost is $9,900.

The artist’s works are held in major private, corporate and public collections including the Nationally Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia and Queensland Art Gallery “ though I can trace no showing of his work there before this, despite many selections in the NATSIA Awards in Darwin.

Fireworks Gallery quotes him as saying, I just love painting “ it gives me confidence in myself and I can relate to people with my paintings, with things I’ve done, I’ve seen, how I grew up and where I’d like to go. Painting has always been with me.

URL: Vincent Serico at the Fireworks Gallery