From the Collection: Leanne Tobin
Until 3 September
Ngurra – Country
From the Collection is an ongoing series of exhibitions, research residencies and programs that invites people from the local community to explore and present artworks from the collection of Penrith Regional Gallery. Inspired by the legacy of Margo Lewers and her desire for the collection to be shared with the people of Penrith, From the Collection provides unprecedented access to the cultural jewel of Penrith and asks people to express what this means to them.
Leanne Tobin is a multi-disciplinary artist of Irish, English and Aboriginal heritage descending from the Buruberong and Wumali clans of the Dharug, the traditional Aboriginal people of the Greater Sydney region. Tobin works collaboratively with community groups, local schools and institutions using her art to tell local stories and to evoke an environmental conscience and respect towards the land and its original people. Leanne also grew up in Emu Plains, and now resides in Springwood, where she works to encourage an open and honest dialogue about the past.
When Leanne was invited to research our collection, her first response was, ‘Where are the works by Dharug artists?’ Our answer was revealing. Penrith Regional Gallery has a rich collection of works by leading Aboriginal artists from across Australia, but none by Dharug practitioners.
Tobin’s curated selection is both considered and sharply pointed. Works by artists from each Australian state have been selected using the Aboriginal notion of Ngurra as a guiding principle. Ngurra appears in many different Aboriginal language groups, translating to English as home, camp, a place of belonging or a place of inclusion. Importantly, Tobin’s selection of works brings together traditional and contemporary Aboriginal practices, to explore the vast array of symbolism, significance and storytelling that exists within this visual language. Ngurra evokes a sense of belonging that comes from within the land rather than overlaid onto it.
Through the process of working with Tobin on the project, the artist has made the generous offer of donating an artwork to join those of display as part of our collection. The Door (Bungaree’s Dilemma) presents the decline of the relationship between British Government and Garigal man Bungaree, who became one of the first Aboriginal envoys used to try to communicate with and encourage compliance. Bungaree is known by the many portraits depicting him in a tricorn hat and red military coat that was given to him. Here, Bungaree is imagined peering through the door of a Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Around his neck is a breast plate with his newly appointed title, ‘King of the Broken Bay Tribe’. This was a token adornment awarded to various Aboriginal men based on their usefulness to the colonists. It was also a feeble attempt to find a leader in a culture that did not elevate individuals as such, with the idea of kings and royalty being a concept that was foreign to the people of Sydney.
Penrith Regional Gallery wish to express their gratitude to Leanne Tobin for both participating in our From the Collection program, as well as her generous donation of the work, The Door (Bungaree’s Dilemma). It is only through the beneficence of artists such as Tobin, that we can begin to have an open dialogue about the overlaid histories of what we now call Australia.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Leanne Tobin is a multidisciplinary artist/educator of Irish, English and Dharug descent.
Leanne lives and works on the land of her Dharug Ancestors, the traditional custodians of the Greater Sydney region.
Leanne is driven by a strong sense of ‘truth-telling’ about what happened here on Dharug country. Through her art, she seeks to encourage open and honest dialogue about the past and to nurture respect and care for Country.
She regularly collaborates with community groups, local schools and institutions to highlight local histories and stories. More recently she has begun incorporating Dharug knowledge into urban design and providing cultural consultations, with the goal of evoking in others, an environmental conscience towards the land ‘ngurra’, and its original people.
Leanne is inspired by the natural world around her, our human interactions and interconnections with that world and the importance of respecting and learning about Country ‘Ngurra’. In her art practice, Leanne invites others to understand and embody the intrinsic spiritual connection the Dharug have with ‘ngurra’; one that is often hidden beneath the concrete and tar of the city and suburbs.