2016 PCA Print Commission Q&A: Heather Kunjarra Koowootha

‘I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.’

Why do you make art?

I have to make some artwork because it’s a whole new journey through life experience.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

I became interested in printmaking because it allows me a full range of tones, textures and fine detail. I am beginning to work with colour and I can try different colours and see how they work in with my ideas.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I showed my drawings to printmaker Theo Tremblay three years ago and he invited me to make prints with him. I saw prints by the artists at Canopy Arts (in Cairns) and was curious how they were made.

How did you approach making your submission for the PCA Print Commission?

I was working on this print about the history of my mother’s people and how they were forcibly removed from Fitzroy island, near Cairns, the missionaries burning the village to force them to the boats to take them to the mainland, and Mr Tremblay suggested I send a proof to the PCA for consideration. I was overjoyed when they accepted it, because, after all it is a very personal statement.

Whose work have you been enjoying lately? Where do you go for inspiration?

Foreign artists, represented in art galleries in Cairns, and artists I come in contact with. I live in a remote area of Queensland and look forward to big exhibitions like Inkfest at the Tanks Art Centre in Cairns, like what we just had recently. I am inspired by North Queensland Indigenous works by artists such as Paul Bong, Sid Bruce Shortjoe and Mylene Holroyd. They are doing etchings and it encourages me to keep going. I also get inspired by stories from my elders and childhood memories.

What are you working on now?

I’m working up a series of drypoints on Perspex about a colonial battle which took place in Yarrabah, where my great-grandfather, Tobias, was a war hero. I’m also working on some small etchings making fun of racist politicians.

Congratulations to Heather Kunjarra Koowootha who received the Indigenous Artist Award as part of this year’s commission.

To view this year’s commission prints visit the PCA website, pick up a copy of the spring 2016 issue of Imprint (Vol. 51 No. 3), or visit one of the participating venue galleries listed below: