A captivated crowd last night packed the house at the newly re-branded De Bortoli Wines Rutherglen Estate cellar door for the Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery landmark exhibition titledNorthern Exposure – Stories from Lockhart River and Fitzroy Crossing.

Flying in from Lockhart River, Cape York, and arriving to the gallery decked out in a thick winter jacket, woolen gloves and beanie; the cold climate was the only shocking element that Aboriginal artist Patrick Butcher Jnr faced as he spoke with confidence and conviction about his unique painting methods and love for Country; and how he expresses it through his art.

The exhibition combines work from three celebrated Aboriginal artists – Jack Macale, Adrian King and Patrick Butcher Jnr – and includes scenes and stories from two Aboriginal communities in far northern Australia: Fitzroy Crossing (The Kimberly, WA) and Lockhart River (Cape York, QLD).  Patrick is an original founding member of the Lockart River Art Gang, formed in 1995 – a group of modernist painters who’s work has been exhibited and collected both nationally and internationally, currently represented in Texas, USA as well as Brussels, Germany and France. This week it was announced that Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery, headed up by Victorian art collector Hans Sip is to be representing the entire 27 artist Lockart River Art Gang throughout Victoria, and by special appointment in the Hunter Valley Wine region of NSW.

Patrick Butcher Jnr
Freedom, 2011
195 x 125cm, Acrylic on linen

Before posing for a few photographs, we spoke to Patrick in detail about his grand scale, colour field semi-abstract works; each painted with the palm of his hands.

‘I began my interest in art by being introduced to linocut work, which I enjoyed and made detailed creations, however the tools used, like paint brushes when I first attempted to paint felt like a barrier – I felt disconnected from the medium, it was unnatural. I decided to use the palm of my hands to paint, which just felt right,’ says Patrick. ‘Now I take precautions with the paint, as it can be toxic; I ware tight fitting gloves that allow me to work fluidly.’

Taking great care to produce his scenes, Patrick says that he likes to consider his work ‘10% activity and 90% thought’; explaining that while his works can be viewed by some as fast-paced creations, he layers each painting, one colour at a time, slowly building the scene after hours of detailed thought and contemplation.

Patrick Butcher Jnr, Malu Kulu – Ocean Depths, 2011
219 x 195cm, Acrylic on linen

Partick’s paintings depict landscapes, seascapes and sky scenes, each in a format that showcases colour and movement as a predominate feature. ‘I love to come home after work, sit and watch the sunset and the sky and clouds changing – like a storm rolling in. This is the important thing for me to express – how nature is always changing, how the colours blend and alter’, says Patrick.

Artist Patrick Butcher Jnr

With a large collection of works sold on the night, plus more sold prior to the exhibition launching, Northern Exposure – Stories from Lockhart River and Fitzroy Crossing has been one of the gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date. And from an impact point of  view, we feel it’s most certainly on of the strongest.

Northern Exposure – Stories from Lockhart River and Fitzroy Crossing is on show until August 30. Entry is free.

Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at De Bortoli Wines, Rutherglen Estate
13-35 Drummond St
Tel 02 6032 9033

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