Thea Anamara Perkins is included in The National 4: Australian Art Now.
Twenty-five single frames of image, run together, makes a second of a movie. It takes millions of frames to tell a story contained in a movie. A painter has just one frame to tell their story. Everything they wish to convey must be contained in that single image. As a filmmaker, I am in awe of the creative power of the painter – who can express, in a single frame, a feeling within the viewer of the work which can resonate across time and generations.
Thea’s process in creating that single image, like all artists, is very personal to her. Being a close family member, I have the special privilege of witnessing and at times playing a part in her process. Her approach to portraiture often begins by sifting through hundreds of family photographs, spread across a kitchen table or the floor. She searches for that particular moment, usually captured unwittingly, that has a certain feeling or power to it: a sleeping father with his firstborn son also asleep on his chest, or in my case, a ten-year-old girl confiding to her father at a land rights demonstration. Their power is in the intimacy of family photographs, the very private nature of the moments. They are images not intended for the outsider.
But the images come to life, becoming vivid in Thea’s careful selection and interpretation. She brings them literally out of the closet, into the public eye, sharing their meaning and widening their context in their reflection of our society. One of my favourites among Thea’s portraits is one of Thea herself, as a toddler, wearing the Aboriginal flag on her T-shirt and wandering among her mother’s friends, in this case a gathering of Aboriginal art curators. The image reflects the legacy she was born into and now carries forth in her own practice as an artist, reflecting the continuing but evolving tradition of Aboriginal artists representing their community, their culture in their country, Australia. Thea’s work is like a river – ‘lhere,’ in our Arrernte language. It draws together the many lives of her extended clan into its flow, a sweep of humanity and history. – Rachel Perkins