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 richly textured Bundoora Homestead Welcome, West reflects on three distinct histories. Pre-colonial settlement is represented in the foreground by the land’s traditional owners, local Wurrundjeri Willam men, hunting for food when Mt. Cooper was an important ceremonial and camping ground. The middle ground depicts the occupants of Bundoora Homestead going about their daily activities; men astride horses and a woman promenading through the gardens with parasol in hand. The background shows Bundoora Homestead, a Queen Anne Federation style mansion built in 1899 as the centrepiece of 600 acre horse stud which was refurbished by Darebin City Council in 2001 as a public art gallery and heritage facility for the wider community to enjoy. Presented in an oval shaped picture frame, as was fashionable during the 1800s to the mid- 20th century, the word 'Welcome' is printed around the edge of the artwork in some of the most popular languages currently spoken in the Darebin municipality.
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.
Bundoora Homestead Welcome © Sharon West