Blak Douglas’s subject is artist Esme Timbery. ‘Aunty Esme and I were chosen for the Eorascapes duo exhibition in the Sydney Opera House Studio foyer during the 2000 Olympics. She is truly a delight to be with. We’d often cross paths at the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-op and I was always an admirer. Aunty Esme is now one of the country’s longest-practising Aboriginal artists, and being Bidjigal and a Koori from La Perouse in Sydney makes her all the more special,’ says Douglas.
‘She gave me a bucket of shells too large for her own ornate work, and I always entertained the thought of including them for the ultimate homage. My trademark cracking represents cultural antiquity and in this case the colouring reflects Aunty Esme’s choices in many of her gorgeous creations. When we met for the initial sitting, she was preparing for her 88th birthday. I painted a sizeable study and loaned it to the family for her party at Yarra Bay Sailing Club, which was an immeasurable honour.’
Born in 1970 to an Aboriginal father of the Dhungutti people, and an Irish-Australian mother, Douglas lives and works in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. An Archibald Prize finalist in 2015 and 2018, he is also a finalist in this year’s Wynne Prize with a collaborative work.