At a hinge-point in his life, artist and ex-gallerist Tony Oliver travelled to the East Kimberley, where he plunged into the crosscurrents and eddies of the Aboriginal art world. He would stay for almost a decade, working alongside a group of senior Gija artists, including acclaimed figures Paddy Bedford and Freddie Timms, to establish Jirrawun Arts, briefly one of the countryâ™s most successful and controversial Aboriginal painting collectives.
The Stranger Artist follows Oliverâ™s journey and the deep relationships he formed, an experience that forever altered his lifeâ™s trajectory. His story will draw readers close to what he came to know of Kimberley life: the immersion of culture and spirituality in the everyday, the importance of Law, the deep and abiding connection to country, and the humour and tragedy that pervade the Aboriginal world.
Evocative and absorbing in equal measure, The Stranger Artist tells not only of the connections that can be formed through the sharing of mutual interests and experiences, but of what it takes to live between cultures.
About the Author
Quentin Sprague is a Geelong-based writer who has worked variously as a curator, academic, art coordinator and artist. His essays and criticism have regularly appeared in publications including The Monthly, The Australian, Art & Australia and Discipline, as well as artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. Between 2007 and 2009 he lived on the Tiwi Islands and in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, where he worked for Aboriginal arts organisations.
Utterly compelling. Vivid and unflinching. Beautifully written. The story of how Indigenous art emerges in the Kimberley; inseparable from the Country itself, and the embers of history. The Stranger Artist captures the texture of everyday life in the Kimberley in a way no other book has done before.
- Mark McKenna, author of An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark and Looking for Blackfellas' Point
The rise and fall of Tony Oliver and the Jirrawun artists is one of the more flamboyant and maverick episodes in the story of Australian Indigenous Art. In his forensic exploration of the partnership that promised a new model for the production and sale of Aboriginal art, and the central relationship between art impresario Oliver and the Gija master painter Paddy Bedford, Quentin Sprague has written a grand cross-cultural tale of genius, co-dependency, brotherhood, mythmaking and hubris.
- Kim Mahood, author of Position Doubtful and Craft for a Dry Lake
Quentin Sprague draws us into a world of heat, busted LandCruisers and community decay with a lyrical portrait of tragic hope where art and cultural exchange come to life.
- Ashleigh Wilson, author of Brett Whiteley: Art Life and the Other Thing and On Artists and arts editor of The Australian
â˜A landmark in Australian literature ¢a book written in gouache, acrylic, blood and tears: the story of the modern frontier, where high art, for a brief, magic time, was made from the trust and tension between two worlds.â™
- Nicolas Rothwell