Eileen Harrison: Connections to Country Exhibition

Community Event

70 Foster St, Sale VIC 3850, Australia
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Daily until August 28

Aunty Eileen Harrison is a true living treasure of Gippsland. A regular exhibitor at Gippsland Art Gallery, Aunty Eileen has inspired thousands of people through her moving coming-of-age novel 'Black Swan: A Koorie Woman’s Life' (co-written with Carolyn Landon in 2011).

We invited Aunty Eileen back to the Gallery to help us celebrate NAIDOC Week 2022 with a collection of new paintings that continue to draw on her life story. Each work is rich with traditional and personal symbols about her life, family and Country, and help us to navigate fresh pathways toward Reconciliation. Her brilliantly-coloured and often highly-detailed paintings draw on a deeply embedded connection to her traditional Country through motifs that must be felt as much as seen.

Aunty Eileen stresses the importance of listening deeply from the heart. Her powerful connection to her mother and grandmother, as well as the animals and land is at the heart of these works. Her rich paintings are abundant with wildlife, and are depicted both naturalistically and as they appeared in the Dreamtime. She says of her work: ‘[the] Dreamtime is always emerging through my art revealing pathways that are spiritual rather than literal’.

An especially significant work, Celebration of our Culture (first shown at the Gallery for NAIDOC Week 2021 and as part of This is Gippsland over summer) will return for Connections to Country. Aunty Eileen writes of this work:

I painted these images of men and women because I was always inspired by the dance moves, especially those of our women. I remember at one stage that it was originally just done by men. Performing dance rites was and still special for our people. They were and still are taught by our Elders, leaders from both men and women groups, but now our women have engaged in their own dance groups with beautiful, graceful, and unique moves.

The songs and dances tell the story about the land and animals and play a very important part in our heritage and culture.

The motifs in between the images indicate part of the land and spiritual life and traditions. It’s all about keeping our beliefs and culture alive from one generation to the next.

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