We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Sentient portraits

When Country is acknowledged as a living entity, can a painting of Country be considered a portrait?

To challenge the way portraits are usually defined in art museums, we’ve asked Indigenous artists with works on display in the Art Gallery of New South Wales to speak about their art.

These audio recordings reveal two forms of knowledge. As interviews with makers, they outline the artists’ interests and the histories and character of their subjects. They also describe landscapes or significant sites, revealing the artist’s personal relationships with Country and the living energies that define it.

Coby Edgar, curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Gallery, commissioned Sentient portraits for Archie Plus, a celebration of portraiture and the power of community.

Rona  Panangka  Rubuntja
b1970
Western Aranda/Auslan, Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Central Desert region
Recorded in 2020
Courtesy the artist and Hermannsburg Potters

Image: Rona Panangka Rubuntja, Kwatja (water) in the Finke River  2019, terracotta and underglazes. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mollie Douglas Bequest Fund 2019 © Rona Panangka Rubuntja. 199.2019

Wally Wilfred
b1958
Wagilak, Arnhem reion; Ngukurr, Gulf region 
Recorded in 2020 
Courtesy the artist and Ngukurr Arts 

Image: Wally Wilfred, After the Rescue, 2020 , (detail) mixed media installation, pictured in the Grand Courts of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Courtesy the artist and Ngukurr Arts . © Wally Wilfred 

Trudy  Inkamala
b1940
Arrernte/Luritja, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Central Desert region
Recorded in 2020
Courtesy the artist and Tangentyere Council

Image: Trudy Inkamala, Woman with Dilly Bags, 2019, mixed media, plastic, woollen blankets dyed with bush plantscotton, wool, hessian, feathers. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors Group 2019. © Trudy Inkamala 209.2019

Beth  Mbitjana  Inkamala
b1977
Western Aranda, Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Central Desert region
Recorded in 2020
Courtesy the artist and Hermannsburg Potters

Image: Beth Mbitjana Inkamala, Hermannsburg Days , 2019, terracotta and underglazes. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mollie Douglas Bequest Fund 2019. © Beth Mbitjiana Inkamala. 197.2019 

Marlene  Rubuntja
b1961
Western Aranda, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Central Desert region
Recorded in 2020
Courtesy the artist and Tangentyere Council

Image: Marlene Rubuntja, Woman with Dilly Bags and Dilly Bag Hat , 2019 , mixed media, plastic, woollen blankets dyed with bush plants, cotton, wool, hessian, feathers , Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors Group 2019. © Marlene Rubuntja . 210.2019  

  • 01
    Rona Panangka Rubuntja
    2 minutes
  • 02
    Wally Wilfred
    2 minutes
  • 03
    Trudy Inkamala
    3 minutes
  • 04
    Beth Mbitjana Inkamala
    3 minutes
  • 05
    Marlene Rubuntja
    3 minutes