Shane Pickett Meeyakba
The paintings of Shane Pickett show the transformations
of Nyoongar country, the country of Australia’s SouthWest,
in breathtaking and ever-changing images.
Shane Pickett (1957–2010) grew up on a small Aboriginal mission in the
Wheatbelt agricultural region east of Perth. From an early age Pickett suffered
from ill health, but showed an immediate aptitude for drawing and painting. He
held his first exhibition in Perth in 1976, at the age of 19.
Over a three-decade career, Pickett’s work transformed from detailed landscape
paintings reminiscent of Albert Namatjira into a groundbreaking and expressive
form of gestural abstraction. He developed a new visual language to represent
the cornerstones of Nyoongar culture: the pathways of ancestors, traditional
healing practices and places, and especially the six Nyoongar seasons.
He would sometimes describe his paintings as ‘windows into the Dreaming’, and
the strength of his culture is delivered all through his work with brilliant, lyrical
intensity. Exploring not only physical healing but also healing of environmental
destruction and the wounds of colonisation, his paintings show the persistence
of Nyoongar ways of seeing the country.
His Nyoongar name, Meeyakba, or ‘soft light of the moon’, captures the gentle
spirit of an artist who set a beacon for those who follow him. He is remembered
as the preeminent Nyoongar artist of his time and one of the great painters of the
Western Australian landscape.