Beauty in place
WORDS Erin Cross
PHOTOS Adam McGrath
From transforming potential eyesores such as community solar batteries into public art, to inspiring the designs for local streetscaping, homes and buildings, stunning artworks have been commissioned by Ginninderry to brighten the everyday world.
In 2019, Ginninderry established a Design Library that commissioned and collected artworks by local professional artists, that responded to the area’s natural landscape. Since then, architects, graphic designers, and builders have been able to borrow these artworks to use as inspiration or to incorporate into Ginninderry’s built environment.
In 2021, the Design Library launched a second phase, led by Ginninderry Arts & Cultural Planning Advisor, Tom Gray, in partnership with the Ginninderry Aboriginal Advisory Group—a homage to the stunning artworks from First Nations artists.
“Having this Design Library as a way to draw on those representations of Place is an amazing opportunity for the built form to have that creative foundation,” says Tom.
We spoke to two of the five commissioned First Nations artists about their work and their connection to Ginninderry.
“I’m inspired by my heritage, that’s the style I learnt with the dots and the shapes that you would typically see in Central Australian art, and I mix that with my upbringing in Cape York.”
Growing up among the unspoiled and rugged landscape of Cape York, Kayannie Denigan always knew her family had a strong connection to the arts.
Luritja by birth—and connected to Iltjitjari and Unturu in Central Australia through her grandmother and greatgrandmother respectively—Kayannie didn’t begin creating her distinctive, bright and unique artworks until she came to Ngunnawal country in 2015.
It was then, when she first picked up a paintbrush to “give it a go”, that she fell in love with painting as a continuation of an ancient form of storytelling.
“I’m inspired by my heritage, that’s the style I learnt with the dots and the shapes that you would typically see in Central Australian art, and I mix that with my upbringing in Cape York,” she explains.
Kayannie is one of the emergingartists that will be featured in the second phase of the Design Library, commissioned to create three pieces that speak to Ginninderry and its natural landscape.
Ngunnawal Country—one of the pieces featuring her signature ‘My Country’ style—incorporates the vibrant yellows and greens of the Ginninderry landscape. Kayannie’s style is inspired by her connection to place, people, and ancestors, and was inspired by viewing her Country from above.
“I think that art is such an amazing thing to have as part of our urban landscape. It brings colour, it brings connections and builds community,” she says.
“Not only is it great to have pieces of art that help connect people to their home and their community, but it also has that other layer of allowing people to understand, acknowledge and respect the traditional owners of the Ginninderry area.”
“I found a strong connection to Place and my culture, looking at the surface level of the cracks, but also delving deeper into the crevices…”
Born in Canberra, self-taught artist Leah Brideson paved her own way in the art world.
A Kamilaroi woman—from her Grandmother’s Country in the Gunnedah region—with strong connections to Breeza and Quirindi, Leah has always been creative, but she found painting a powerful healing process.
Referring to her art practice as ‘visual yarns’, Leah’s main inspiration for her work is Country, a theme she carried across to the Design Library.
“My Country is often dry and cracked,” she explains. “I found a strong connection to place and my culture, looking at the surface level of the cracks, but also delving deeper into the crevices… That’s where my cracked-earth style comes from.”
“My stories are of spending time on my Country and also of Ngunnawal Country, though I don’t tell the stories of the mob here, I speak of my place as a visitor here and my connection to the beautiful landscape through colour and design.”
Working primarily with fine art acrylics on canvas, Leah submitted her first digital creations to the Ginninderry Design Library, embedding stories and culture into the contemporary identity of place.
“I wanted to be involved in the Design Library as I live close to Ginninderry and have always been keen to paint the landscape around me,” she explains. “I also want to learn more about this Country…There is so much cultural richness around this place.”
Inspired by a topographical view of the river and Country, Leah created artwork that celebrates Ginninderry whilst also acknowledging the diversity of the people who share the area.
“Integrating the artworks into the landscape embeds the local stories and culture into the contemporary identity of place, which is where they should be,” says Leah.
“I really hope that I have interpreted the cultural landscape the way that Ngunnawal and surrounding mob see it and I honour them, their Elders, and their Country through and beyond this project.”