Christopher Pease is an established Nyoongar artist whose practice examines Australian history with an emphasis on the colonisation and European settlement of Australia. Pease’s practice has involved research surrounduing particular interactions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people during colonial times and depictions of such event through paintings of great detail. Most recently however, Pease has begun depicting his culture materially through the use of natural materials found across Nyoongar Country. In Balga Resin, 2008 the artist uses collected gum from the infamous Balga tree [Xanthorrhoea preissii], which has through history held many traditional applications for the Nyoongar people. Pease melts the hard gum onto a hessian surface and in doing so renders a surface in rich expanses of deep glistening reds and browns, inserting Nyoongar Country into work that discusses Nyoongar identity across time to the very present moment.
Curatorial insightPease’s artwork deals with the ways in which the material world is used by all cultures to construct symbolic forms that articulate and represent their understandings. The Balga, or Grasstree, provides the resource for the material used in the current work. Raw resin from the Balga is collected by the artist and melted down to make the resin flexible enough to be applied to the hessian placed on top of the canvas. The Balga resin was and is still used by Nyoongar people to produce tools, for waterproofing of bokas (animal skins/cloaks) and mia-mias (shelters) and was intrinsic to survival. Commentary on this fact underlies the work but it is in fact Pease’s attraction to the beauty of the resin – its opaque, blood red sumptuousness and its ability to change with different light sources – that is the artist’s true motivation. (AGWA 2009)