Hybrid mythical creatures and giant Australian animals are common encounters in the artwork of Sharon West. Set in a traditional landscape, West presents a unique way of exploring the relationships between the white settler, Aboriginal cultures and the Australian landscape. The artist navigates within Australia’s colonial narratives to highlight the cultural conditions of settlement, and the accompanying dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land.
West’s artwork is grounded in satire and, at the same time, references Australian landscape movement paintings, reflecting colonial perspectives of history and myth, while imbued with the artist’s imagination and personal narratives. Offering re-imagined glimpses of Victorian history with people of the Kulin Nation, West creates statements about colonisation as an evolving historical and cultural process.
In Mt. Cooper Estate, West depicts a new housing development built on the north eastern slope of Mt. Cooper, an ancient land shaped by extremely powerful geological events. Standing at 137 metres, it is the highest point of landscape in metropolitan Melbourne and one of Victoria’s oldest, extinct volcanoes. Standing side by side in a uniformed pattern, large, modern homes of various types with manicured lawns and landscaped gardens are constructed on a place of great cultural significance. Mt. Cooper was an important ceremonial and camping ground and the site of an Aboriginal stone quarry and scarred trees. It constitutes part of the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri-Willam, a clan of the Woiwurrung language group that forms part of the Kulin Nation. Overlapping past with present, further up the hill, behind the water tower, are three Wurundjeri-Willam men, traditional owners of the land.
West has developed a comprehensive and impressive body of work examining the relationship between settler and Indigenous cultures within the context of Australian colonial art history. She practices principally with the mediums of painting, assemblage and digital media. West has exhibited widely in Australia and has curated a number of exhibitions working primarily with Victorian Indigenous artists. She is the recipient of various awards including the Excellence in Conceptual Photography Award Kodak Salon (CCP, 2011) Bendigo Bank Emerging Award for the ANL Maritime Art Awards (Mission to Seafarers, 2011), and winner of the Darebin Art Show (2011). Her artwork is held in public collections including the State Library of Victoria, City of Melbourne and the Museum of the British Empire (UK) as well as many private collections.
Mt. Cooper Estate © Sharon West