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Rusty Peters / Rocky River Country

90cm x 120cm Ochre on Canvas, 2008

SKU: 12092


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Rusty Peters was born on Springvale Station, East Kimberley, Western Australia in 1935.  He grew up and worked as a stockman on Springvale, which is the content of many of his works.  The family relocated to Mabel Downs Station after his father was lost in a riding accident, and Rusty continued as a stockman and valued horse-breaker.  The family then moved to the fledgling Turkey Creek Community (now Warmun) where Rusty took his place with the Kitja Elders in passing on the culture to the young boys.  He worked with Hector Jandany and George Mung Mung who along with Jack Britten and Paddy Jampinji were to become the First Generation Ochre artists, all of whom are now deceased.

In 1989 he moved to Kununurra and worked at Waringarri Aboriginal Art Centre, the first in the East Kimberley area.  He assisted artists, in particular Rover Thomas (dcsd.) and learned the many facets of the art trade whilst painting infrequently.  He participated in printmaking workshops with Waringarri. He commenced painting seriously in 1997 with Freddie Timms and Paddy Bedford.  His intimate knowledge of the country from his station background and the associated Dreaming Stories now form the basis of his very distinctive works, depicting a sparse mapping style and grass routes ‘bones of the earth’ iconography.

Rusty has the most interesting face, weathered by the rugged Kimberley conditions and perhaps by life itself.  The very well known artist Nicholas Harding who has been an Archibald finalist every year since 1994 and won the Archibald Prize in 2001 with a painting of actor John Bell, in 2002 and 2004 submitted portraits of Rusty for this prestigious Award.

His dry sense of humour and casual style of speaking is legendary – in 2005 whilst attending an Exhibition at Parliament House in Canberra, in reply to political remarks such as “(Aboriginal Art) is our most profound, significant and important cultural export. I don’t think there’s any question about that” Rusty merely commented “I’m just proud of what we’ve done”.

Rusty Peters is an established high profile International Artist, with works in major Collections and Museums around the world.

Selected Exhibitions

• Rusty Peters – Kimberley Stories, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

• Yiribana Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Gallery , Art Gallery of New South Wales

• Rusty Peters – Recent Paintings, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
• Rhapsodies in Country, GrantPirrie at Art Miami, USA

• Two Laws. . .One Big Spirit (with Peter Adsett), 24Hour Art, Darwin and Touring Nationally

• Blood on the Spinifex, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

• Rusty Peters – Long Fella Standing Up, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

• Rusty Peters – Recent Paintings, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
• TarraWarra Biennial, 2006 Parallel Lives: Australian Painting Today, TarraWarra Museum of Art, VIC

• Retrospective with his sister Mabel Juli, Kuntjil Cooper, Alkawari Dawson and Garry Namponan, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne
• Ochre Show, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle

Selected Collections
• Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Acquisition of an eight panel painting ‘Waterbrain’ depicting the cycle of birth, rebirth and knowledge – the featured artwork in the “True Stories” Exhibition 2003
• Private and Corporate collections Australia and Internationally

Selected Bibliography
• McADAM, Charlie and family as told to Elizabeth Tregenza, Boundary Lines, McPhee Gribble, Ringwood, 1995
• Rusty Peters Kimberley Stories, ex cat, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne, 1999
• Two Big Laws…One Big Spirit, ex cat, 24 Hr Art, Darwin, 2000

This is my grandfather’s country around here – going down towards Fitzroy way, west of Springvale (Springvale Station, where Peters was born). My father was born in a big cave in this part too. My father grew up here. My grandfather was frightened of the whitefellas you know. Wouldn’t have anything to do with them. My father was OK with them though. Lots of caves in this place and in the river the biggest barramundi – they breed here. Not too many people around this part now but they still go there for the fishing. This is right where I used to go when I was younger – back to my country now.

Gallery Note
As well as painting his Grandfather’s country, Rusty has depicted the Jimbala (Kitja word for spearhead) which were traditionally made from a white flintlike stone and fashioned into knives, spears and weapons in the early days, an important tradition that Rusty’s Grandfather passed down to him. The stone was shaped, and then ‘cooked’ in a fire to strengthen and harden the blade. Both the white Jimbala and the fires used to harden the blade are depicted in the artwork.

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