They like to do things properly in the West. Did it start with the Canning Stock Route exercise, ‘Yuwarra Kuju‘, seen at the National Museum? Then there was the multi-year, multi-platform Kimberley ‘Desert, River, Sea’ project which didn’t leave the West other than online. And now the Pilbara is getting its turn through ‘Tracks We Share‘, which will also have its website.

It takes two exhibitions to encompass the vastness of the Pilbara and its burgeoning number of art centres – now five. Already open is the show at FORM – the remarkable facilitation organisation that has been involved in all these projects. Called ‘Emergent‘, it is an outcome of an Emerging Curator’s Program, which is part of the wider multi-year Tracks We Share project which FORM has been developing since 2019 in collaboration with the artists and art centres – Cheeditha Art Group, Juluwarlu Art Group, Martumili Artists, Spinifex Hill Studio and Yinjaa-Barni Art; plus independent artists Katie West, cinematographer Curtis Taylor, and Jill Churnside.

Though the exhibition at AGWA Tracks We Share: Contemporary Art of the Pilbara – which opens on 11th March – will be the chief outcome of this three-year undertaking, it is only one aspect of the project’s multiple aims. Since 2019, artists across the Pilbara have also taken up opportunities for artistic development and collaboration via the project’s residencies, commissions, workshops and professional training. ‘Emergent‘ is an integral part of this programming. Showing at FORM’s own exhibition space in Claremont, this exhibition has eventuated from the Tracks We Share Emerging Curators Program, a program delivered over the past year by FORM’s curatorial team, and guest mentor Tui Raven.

The trainee curators are Corban Clause Williams (Martumili Artists), Lorna Dawson (Spinifex Hill Studio), Layne Dhu-Dickie (Spinifex Hill Studio), Courtney McKay (Juluawarlu Art Group), Kimberley McKie (Spinifex Hill Studio), Sharlene Phillips (Spinifex Hill Studio), Melissa Sandy (Yinjaa-Barni Art) and Wendy Warrie (Cheeditha Art Group). FORM describes the result as “an eclectic show celebrating the diverse, complex and innovative creative practice of artists working across the Pilbara”.

Meanwhile, coming at the WA Art Gallery, ‘Tracks We Share: Contemporary Art of the Pilbara’ brings together more than 70 artists and over 190 artworks. “This extraordinary body of work features the most exciting contemporary art coming out of the region while paying homage to the legacy that has informed it, offering a rare and broad-reaching insight into the region’s artistic output over the years”.

The project which has documented the context and development of the artmaking practices that are a key way the Pilbara’s Aboriginal communities share, sustain and celebrate culture. The project maps the breadth of the region’s diverse creative practice and honours the unique space the Pilbara’s Aboriginal artists have carved out amongst contemporary Australian art.

The title of the exhibition was devised by a group of the exhibiting artists and references the many language groups and diverse Countries of the Pilbara, while acknowledging the physical, cultural and artistic tracks that connect them all.

The core of the exhibition is a spectacular selection of the stunning acrylic paintings for which the region’s art movement is primarily known, accompanied by works on paper, installations, film, animation, photographs, sculptures, and carvings.

The ‘Tracks We Share’ project has encompassed consultation, artwork development, artistic commissions, artistic residencies, and professional development. Extensive project documentation will be shared in the form of a publication which will provide insight into the artists, places, creative processes, Country, and stories behind the art.

The Art Gallery is also showing the NGA touring show, ‘Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia’ which surveys historical and contemporary works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia. The works in this touring exhibition bridge time and place and are interconnected through story and experience.

And the riches of First Nations art in Perth continue at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin Uni. It’s showing a solo show by Badimia/Yamatji artist Julie Dowling ‘Bidya Gurlbarl – Open Secret’ until 29 March.

Julie Dowling is an internationally acclaimed artist and activist who creates pictorial critiques of contemporary and historical Australian narratives.

Through the images of her own family, Dowling re-presents the power imbalance in settler-colonial and contemporary Western Australia. Portraits of her own ancestors and those of other Aboriginal people gaze directly at the viewer, challenging them to acknowledge Australia’s colonial history and protest the ongoing injustices experienced by Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal slavery has underpinned the development of mining and pastoral success in WA and elsewhere in Australia. Aboriginal children were stolen from their families and used as free labour in the missions and native settlements where they were held, creating ongoing inter-generational trauma. Aboriginal people were posed as ethnographic exhibits in photographs during the 19th century and later. Decades later, those photographed are still unidentified and longing to be claimed.

On a happier note, we send congratulations to senior artist WA artist Lena Nyadbi on being awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for ‘her distinguished service to the visual arts as a contemporary Indigenous artist’. Gija woman Nyadbi has an international reputation for her work, painting at Warrmun Art Centre in the East Kimberley since 1998. Her most significant exposure is on the roof of the Musee du quai Branly in Paris, a huge expansion of her traditional work ‘Dayiwul Lirlmim’ (Barramundi Scales), now visible from the Eiffel Tower.