Hector Burton is one of nine artists shortlisted for the annual Kate Challis RAKA Award for Indigenous creative artists. His paintings will be on show alongside work by the other candidates at the Ian Potter Museum at the University of Melbourne this month.
Co-curator of the exhibition Suzette Wearne says she “can’t overstate the significance” of Burton. Born in the 1930s and based in the Amata Community in northwest South Australia, Burton paints to protect the sacred spiritual knowledge of the anangu people. He’s a key artist in a movement in the community to conceal the Tjukurpa (dreaming) stories previously represented by many Indigenous artists by covering them in images of trees as a kind of “fence around their culture”. Wearne says: “These works are not only culturally significant, they are immensely beautiful.” And they’ve never been shown in a public institution before.
For the award, Wearne set out to unveil Indigenous creative talent around the country, both high and low profile individuals. “We looked far and wide and I spent a lot of time speaking with Aboriginal art centres and looking at tonnes of works,” she says. “We wanted to include both marginalised and well known talent.” The winner of the Kate Challis RAKA Award will be announced at the exhibition’s official opening on August 14 and will receive prize money of $25,000.
Image: Hector Burton, 'Punu ngura', 2012, (detail) synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 197 x 198 cm. © Courtesy the artist and Tjala Arts.