Marie Florence.
Marie Florence.

From Cubawee to Coraki

Marie Florence began painting at 50 and as an Aboriginal artist, felt that she had to use traditional colours. She decided that she wanted to break with tradition and experimenting with colour is one of the many passions that drive her as an artist.

Marie’s painting Restriction = Loss of Freedom was last week awarded the Aboriginal Art Prize in the 2010 Coraki Art Prize.

Marie, a Bundjalung woman, spent some of her childhood on the mission at Cubawee and her prize-winning work is about life on the “mish”, a word that Marie said Aboriginal people have taken ownership of to take back some of the power taken from them.

Restriction = Loss of Freedom is both beautiful and confronting.

“They took away our right to live traditionally, a loss of freedom,” Marie said. “The little blocks on the outside represent people taken from their own clan country. The footsteps around the outside represent little walkabouts around the reserve. We were forced out of traditional living onto the mish. Some missions were surrounded by barb wire. Early on at Cubawee there was a tin fence, but by the time I was growing up it was a corner of a paddock.

“I still love Cubawee; I still have an attachment. People couldn’t hunt traditionally and started to rely on rations, had curfews and different clan groups were forced together.

“It was a safe place. I had a very strict upbringing; everyone had their place but it was harsh treatment if you broke the rules.

“I remember always getting stuck on the barb wire when I’d go over to the mango tree; no-one minded if you walked around and grabbed fruit.”

Marie uses vivid colour combinations in her work.

“I’ve broken away from using traditional colours; we’re living in 2010 and I’m allowed to, colours suit me,” she said. “There’s so much freedom to put what you want on canvas. I’ve broken with the traditional way to think too, the old way of doing things.

“I’d like to educate people and I’m very pleased to have hooked up with GunnaWannaBe (gallery and cafe in South Lismore) because I would struggle to know what to do with the business side,” she said.

Sixteen-year-old Trinity student Ruben Stoney won the Youth Art (13-18) Prize for his work Portrait of my Dad.

It has the words “letter to the editor” painted over an actual letter to the editor that Ruben had written to his father, who was the editor of a newspaper in Charleville before he passed away.

Youth judge Tess Forbes said Ruben’s work spoke to her and made her want to know more.

Sculptor Annette Garland was awarded the Best in Show prize for her work Riding the Economic Storm, Clare Twomey won Best Drawing for Molesworth St, Lismore, Sunday Morning; Meredith Crowe’s Tyagarah Evening Sky in Water won Best Painting; Sarah Harvey won Best Printmaking and Wendy Powitt’s Bears of the Dark Heart won the sculpture prize.

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