Kulumindini artist Sharon Bill began her artistic career a decade ago. Sharon spent many months observing the Kulumindini artists at work before she began painting herself, she has been an artist ever since.
Sharon’s early works depict whistle duck (dendocygnus). Notable for their large twiggy nests and bright white eggs, whistle ducks or whistling ducks are commonly found in the large waterholes of the Barkly Region. Sharon’s exploration of whistle duck is a reflection of her broader interest in water animals living in the areas occupying Elliott, particularly Lake Wood, which remains an important place for the artist. As a child, Sharon recalls her and her sister freeing two turtles into Lake Wood which has since become an active turtle habitat and a popular fishing site. Alongside whistle duck, other wetland creatures occupy Sharon’s work, including freshwater mussel (dangila) and turtles, both popular bush tucker and common motifs in the work of the Kulumindini artists.
Alongside her interest in water dwelling creatures, Sharon often depicts bush tucker, bush flower and bush medicine. Bush tucker, also referred to as bush food, is a major subject for artists in the Barkly Arts region. Artworks depicting bush tucker are representative of the artist’s intricate medical, cultural and environmental knowledge of the region’s bush foods. The artists were taught this knowledge by their old people (ancestors) who, for generations, thrived off the bush foods sourced from their traditional country. Depictions of bush tucker recur often in Sharon’s work, she holds a particular enthusiasm for bush potato, which she has continued to paint throughout her career, reflecting her love of the food which grows in the black soil country near Elliott. Along with bush tucker, Sharon has often returned to images of bush flowers, and holds a particular interest in how these change through the seasons. Sharon has dedicated a series of work to depicting the changing colours of bush flowers and reeds throughout the cycle of their life.
In her most recent body of work, Sharon has returned to Australian freshwater mussel (dangila). Dangila is found in rivers, streams and billabongs in the central desert region, the critters bury themselves in the mudbanks of drying creeks, leaving little holes through which they are pulled out. Dangila can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted on hot ashes. Sharon’s works depict Dagaila in vivid colour works, a recent series of three works shows Dagila at different stages of its life as it slowly grows. The works are reflective of the ease with which Sharon combines depictions of bush tucker with striking colour, and uses repetition to create mesmerising depictions of bush food and medicine.