Shepparton Art Museum has new indigenous artworks

By John Lewis

Shepparton Art Museum has added to its collection of indigenous artworks thanks to a generous donation from art collectors and philanthropists Carrillo and Ziyin Gantner.

SAM Indigenous Community Engagement officer Belinda Briggs said The Brothers was the third painting by artist Julie Dowling to join the SAM collection.

Ms Briggs said the work continued the relatable themes and stories of family, identity, country and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

She said the 2002 painting depicted three men dressed in a club football uniform either during or after a game.

Two men are arm-in-arm with the football safely tucked under one of the brothers’ arms, while behind them stands their teammate. Meticulously rendered traditional symbols expand across the surface of the green footy oval and blue Australian sky, referencing representations of place, cultural symbols and indigenous identity.

Ms Briggs said Dowling’s portraits often featured members from her own family, occasionally herself, and the familiar faces of iconic Australian figures.

Ms Briggs said Dowling’s works had specific references and universal connections; and they conveyed many stories, concerns or insights, told through the compelling eyes of her subjects.

Ms Briggs, an active member of Rumbalara Football Netball Club, said Australian Rules Football had been embraced by Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, creating sporting legacies and legends across the country.

‘‘In our region of country Victoria this was also true,’’ Ms Briggs said.

She said local premiership-winning sides emerged from families living at Cummeragunja (1890s-1930s), and there was also the All Blacks of Daishs Paddock (1946), and more recently at Shepparton’s Rumbalara Football Netball Club.

‘‘Sport, and playing as part of a team, enabled players to acquire a level of independence and freedom off the missions in a time where permission had to be sought by the manager. Bonds are made in the inner sanctum of teams and can offer a place of respite, belonging and affirmation of identity,’’ Ms Briggs said.

‘‘Today these clubs are an important tool as ever, to foster culture, nurture families, and promote wellbeing.’’

Other Julie Dowling works in the SAM Collection are: Inside Out (1999) donated by Carrillo and Ziyin Gantner in 2017; and Woman Head (2002), donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Carrillo Gantner in 2017.