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Tex Skuthorpe, an Aboriginal artist from Goodooga
north western NSW, was privileged to be taught his people’s traditional
culture by the Noonghaburra elders from Noonghal country. Being the
eldest boy of the Emu and Sand Goanna totems gave Tex the responsibility
to teach and record Noonghaburra law.
Traditionally, all recording was in art form and law was communicated
to young people through initiation, dance, stories and art. As such,
all Tex’s artwork incorporates a story – some are traditional stories
and others, such as his environment work, tell the story of more
The diversity of Aboriginal art reflects the diversity of the
Australian landscape. Tex’s designs are unique to Noonghal country, his
traditional land. Before Tex could paint Noonghaburra stories, the
elders told him to find his designs in the bush. The circular design,
which is such a strong feature of many of his paintings, was found only
after months of searching. This pattern was revealed to Tex after
cutting a small piece of bark from a Coolabah tree, and leaving it to
dry. He found the circular tracks of a small insect, which helps to
clean the tree.
Before Tex could use the insect’s design, he was required to show
respect, by understanding its entire lifecycle – how it lived, what it
needed for survival, its relationship to other people’s totems and how
and why it made the design on the tree. Tex was taught that the
depiction of any animal or plant required this level of intense study.
This whole process of truly experiential learning created in Tex an
intimate, holistic and highly practical understanding of his country and
his place within it as well as a deep sense of responsibility to use
the knowledge with wisdom and respect.
NAIDOC national aboriginal artist of the year 1990/91
The combination of aesthetics and meaning in Tex’s art was one of the
major contributors to his winning this prestigious award. The award was
a National Award, with votes coming from judging panels of Aboriginal
artists and experts in every State and Territory (including Northern
Territory and Western Australia).
In 1994 Tex presented a piece of work – “Tomodachi” (meaning
“Friend”) – to the Emperor of Japan, which is now in his private
collection and destined to become part of the National Treasure of
Japan. Tex was given the Emperor’s approval to use his private seal in
any artwork – an honour previously only given to the most highly
acclaimed artists within Japan.
As a result of this privilege, Tex was commissioned to paint a series
of artworks for an exhibition in Sydney by two Japanese Incubana
Masters. These stunning paintings combine traditional stories from Japan
and Noonghal country and are painted on Japanese rice paper and mounted
on traditional silk scrolls measuring 1 metre x 2.5 metres.
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