Nukunu culture in paint | BIG PICTURE FEST

BIG PICTURE: Elizabeth Close is one of the artists contributing to the mural on the wall of the Red Cross building.
BIG PICTURE: Elizabeth Close is one of the artists contributing to the mural on the wall of the Red Cross building.

As many walls around Pirie start to be painted, each one comes with a different story being told by renown artists who have brought their designs to Port Pirie’s Big Picture Fest.  

Elizabeth Close, a contemporary Aboriginal artist and muralist painted the Red Cross wall with local, Jessica Turner, bringing a design that shows a connection to country. 

Elizabeth, also a nurse has been a professional artist for a decade, but only started painting walls three years ago and says her Grandma’s influence is really to thank to kick starting her career. 

“When [my grandmother] passed away, I really really struggled so I turned to art to painting, as way to heal and honour her”, she explained.

“I started to paint and at first it was because I wanted to create some art for myself and my house and then I was like ‘oh that turned out really well’ and I entered it into a prestigious exhibition in Adelaide and was shortlisted.”

Since then, her work has grown organically and her passion for her own culture has been integral in many of her pieces as she believes that sometimes Aboriginal culture is missing from modern discourse. 

“It is accessible and everyone can enjoy it. It brings foot traffic, tourism, colour, life and also again from my art it is a way of increasing the visibility of Aboriginal culture in a modern discourse where sometimes we can be a little bit missing.”

The design done in collaboration with Jessica Turner is a mix of Elizabeth’s Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara background, surrounding by strong Nukunu culture. 

Elizabeth does not like to paint stories that are not hers, when she is not on her own country so the flowing painting on the building is simply an abstract design, where the curves reflect the Flinders Ranges, intertwined with Jess’s Nukunu input. 

“What I do is more broadly paint about the concept of connection to country and that we are meshed within the landscape and it is meshed within us and our culture. That is where it is going to go”, she said. 

Elizabeth’s talents were brought to Port Pirie due to her friendship with festival curator, Joel Van Moore. He asked her to come along and having the opportunity to paint a mural in a regional city was an opportunity she could not miss. 

“I think it is fantastic. I love public art and I think it is really important because it is accessible and takes art out of the galleries and puts it in a public space for everyone to enjoy.”

“I think that it is even more critical in regional centres and those that have struggled. We know that public art helps boost the economy and brings tourism, I think it is a fantastic thing.”

The Big Picture Fest will go through to the end of this week, with the Big Picture in the Park being held this Saturday in celebration of all the works.