Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins

Term: 3 Year: 2021
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins
Artist Q & A with Thea Perkins

Thea Anamara Perkins: b. 1992, Gadigal Country (Sydney) lives and works on Gadigal Country (Sydney) in Arrernte and Kalkadoon language groups.

Thea Anamara Perkins is an Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist whose practice incorporates portraiture and landscape to depict authentic representations of First Nations peoples and Country. With a delicate hand, Thea answers heavy questions about what it means to be Indigenous in contemporary Australia and how Aboriginal people can and should be portrayed.

She has won the prestigious Alice Prize and the Dreaming Award for Emerging Artists and been a finalist in many other distinguished art prizes including the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship and, twice, in the Archibald Prize.

Our Zart Education Manager caught up with Thea for a quick Q & A.

What did art mean to you as a child/young person?

I was drawn to art as a conduit for beauty, nostalgia, joy and pathos. It was a brilliant way of distilling abstract ideas and – most importantly – communicating them in a way that could really change someone’s mind. I was also fascinated by the impulse to make an artwork.

Did art help you with a sense of identity/purpose?

As a First Nations person, and a very sensitive person, it was very important to be able to communicate issues close to me. It gave me voice.

Did you have a particular teacher or a “teacher moment” that encouraged you as an artist? 

I was very fortunate to have fantastic art teachers throughout school, so it would be hard to name a particular teacher or moment. They really pushed me to hone my skills, learn to write about art, and to think deeply about theory. I was a regular in the artrooms even during breaks, and if something difficult happened, I always knew I could go to the art staff room for a cup of tea.

Recent solo show:
Shimmer at Nicholas Smith Gallery
8th June – 3rd July | 6 Napier Street, Gadigal Country / Paddington, NSW.

Shimmer seeks to explore the contemporary experience of being a First Nations person. The title is inspired by a public Arrernte women’s ceremony shared by our very senior knowledge-holder MK Turner OAM. The lyrics are, ‘Altyerre ayenge alhelharrke-parrkaye’ which translates to, ‘I am a woman and I am shimmering.’ Not only is it a powerful, joyful assertion of our matriarchy and our Altyere (dreaming), but it also connotes spiritual power, an inherent energy. Like shimmering light, it is a contiguity that is ever-present, infusing memory and even paint.

Nic Plowman
(Zart Education) in conversation with Thea Perkins