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 The Frilled-neck Filly of Bundoora Homestead, West reflects upon the influence of European domestic animals over the Australian environment and the radical impact of introduced animals on the natural flora and fauna. The ‘Frilled-neck Filly’, a fantastic hybrid curio of lizard and horse, takes up a somewhat menacing stance a short distance away from Bundoora Homestead, a stately Queen Anne style Federation mansion and horse stud. The artwork was created first as a diorama with a hand painted background and then photographed through glass, flattening the texture to further distort the legitimacy of colonial settlement.
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.
The Frilled-neck Filly of Bundoora Homestead © Sharon West