“It’s in the blood I suppose”.
Artist and mentor, Brian Smith uses this phrase a lot when talking about his practice. In his blood is
Kunya ancestry from the Cunnamulla vicinity, North of Murawarri.
Brian grew up in Bourke, with a number of artists in the family, and attributes his style to them, as well
as contemporary artists but maintains that Kunya country, and the stories passed down within his clan, are factors that greatly influence his work. While he often tries his hand at different styles, Brian says he always comes back to Aboriginal art.
Brian Smith is a key figure in the town’s Aboriginal art scene.
“If you look at a lot of the guys’ work from around here, you’ll notice that they’ve got my style of painting. Obviously they’ve got their own techniques that they throw in themselves but I’ve been painting from a young age, and have got pretty used to it. I’ve been teaching a lot of young guys through the years and a lot of them come to my home when they need a hand or a bit of paint”.
Many of the men Brian teaches come from the Ngemba and Barkindji nation, and have grown up on the opposite side of the Darling River to him. This, Brian believes is one of the reason their artworks look slightly different to his.
“They’ve got their own stories”.
Brian’s interest in cultural heritage extends beyond the workshop, and translates to crafting traditional tools, weapons and instruments as well as hunting and gathering traditional foods. With knowledge that’s been passed down to him, he teaches younger indigenous men to do the same, but like their artistic practice, he believes they’ve already got the natural intuition.
“Most of the guys I teach already know it, they just need to be reassured. They know it in the back of their mind”.
Brian is currently involved in the development of a regional gallery in Bourke that will cater to both Indigenous and non-indigenous artists. It seems that encouraging culture in the community comes naturally to Brian, in the same way art does to his students.
“I think deep down they know, they just need a bit of guidance. Once you throw a paintbrush in their hand, they’ll do some good work”.