Neil (Nicky) Winmar
Title: Memories of the old school, Kartadjin
Dimensions: 102 x 122 cm,
Medium: Acrylic on canvas,
painted on Jaara Country, January 2023.
This painting began as an abstract exploration of colour and texture effects. Nicky was fully immersed in the process, just following his intuition – working with the canvas on the ground, drizzling paint direct from the tubes, spraying, wiping, tilting the canvas to let the paint run, and stepping back to assess. Many layers were applied and erased. It reminded Nicky of wiping a blackboard. As it dried some areas would remain even after disrupting and washing away the surface paint to reveal an earlier state, with some areas stripped back to reveal the almost raw canvas. These areas reminded him of fire, and the old school that was burned down that he liked to visit nearby, so it was given the working title ‘old school’.
Reflecting on the finished painting, Nicky said school was a place he never felt he belonged. He spent a lot of time in school staring at the blackboard with its many layers of white ‘knowledge’, written in chalk then wiped away, with feint ghostly remains visible but not legible. This black scratched and damaged surface was supposed to impart knowledge. Kartadjin Is the word for knowledge in Nyoongar. In the painting it’s like his people’s ways of knowing are there underneath the white culture’s layering. Nicky added a few personally significant numbers and letters in white. The painting suggests a violent struggle, like no matter how many layers there are, the truth finds a way of burning through, and the old knowledge still exists underneath.
Title: Unaarrimin Manang [Johnny Mullagh Waterhole].
Dimensions :91.5 x 91.5cm,
Medium: acrylic on canvas,
painted on on Jardwadwali and Djaara Country, March-April 2023.
Unaarrimin was a champion cricketer, captain of the all indigenous First IX team, that toured England in 1868. When the team returned home to the western district of Victoria they were not only not paid as promised, but told they had to relocate to missions. Unaarrimin refused, and stayed living and working in Harrow, eventually living in self-exile in a hollow tree by a waterhole, where he died.
In March this year Nicky spent the long weekend at Harrow, attending the annual Johnny Mullagh Cup and exhibiting his artwork. He learned more of the sad history at the Discovery Centre, where there is a life-sized sculpture of ‘Johnny Mullagh’. He visited the secluded waterhole, a sacred site, and started this painting there, using the mud and water from the waterhole. He then took some water in an ancient bottle found at the site, and poured it on Johnny’s grave, saying ‘I think he’s been thirsty’.
A3 Photographic prints -$160 each
Neil Elvis (Nicky) Winmar is well-known for his stellar AFL career, and the defiant stance he made against racism in sport in 1993. A proud Nyoongar man, he grew up in Wilman country before being recruited to South Fremantle at age 16, then played for StKilda Football Club (12 years) and Western Bulldogs (1 year).
Nicky became interested in art after the statue of him that is now at Perth Optus Stadium was made. He has been painting since late 2018, exploring many different styles and techniques, settling on a contemporary approach, inspired by the landscapes and colours of country, but using abstract techniques like Jackson Pollock. He often incorporates Djitti Djitti (willy wagtail) which is his family totem into his paintings.
In 2021 he designed the indigenous round guernseys for StKildaFC, including elements from his paintings – Djitti Djittis, abstract strips on the front and his hand stencils on the back. The guernseys sold out with each issue, and the design was rejigged by the club for AFL and AFLW games in 2022.
Nicky’s art has been selling to fans and art collectors alike, through auction and private sale, the Mitchelton Gallery in Nagambie Victoria, Yungarra Gallery in WA, and via Instagram : @nickywinmarart. His painting ‘Anzac Cove, Bombardment’ was shortlisted for the 2023 Gallipoli Prize.