Artist Insights: J.Kirby

After Confined 15, you may already be familiar with the work from proud Wadi Wadi/Wemba Wemba man, J.Kirby. His work Ceremony Grounds was selected as the promotional image for the exhibition and also won The Lechte Connection to Culture Acquisitive Award, an award that expresses a strong connection to Culture.

Ceremony Grounds reminds us of home – a place where ceremony is held, where stories are told, where culture is practised, and where we can feel more like ourselves, more whole, than anywhere else on earth. These colours of Country remind us that ‘we are never alone if connected to Country and our Ancestors’.

The Country that J.Kirby’s story begins on is Waddi Waddi Country, around Swan Hill. He also spent some time around Mildura and Robinvale. Though his formal education ended after Year 6, he taught himself to read and write. Art wasn’t a new discovery. His parents provided cultural guidance that continues to influence his work. He learnt a lot from his Uncles and Aunties, and when speaking of his art, he says, “It runs through my blood”. He began painting around 15 or 16 and spent time on a farm at 17, working on water management and planting native trees, which further honed his skills and deepened his connection to the land. It wasn’t until his incarceration that he truly delved into his artistic practice, painting his cultural stories and journeys.

Within the walls, art became a powerful outlet. J.Kirby’s paintings explore his cultural heritage and personal journeys, painting a lot of his culture and the places on Country where he grew up. He uses a unique technique, employing dabbing-work with the brush to create different texture and feel, often incorporating line work and earthy ochres, with yellow – his favourite colour – adding a vibrant touch. Painting makes him feel proud of being an Aboriginal man, living his culture.

When people look at my work, I want them to know that I painted it from the heart, and to know who I am, a Waddi Waddi man.

Beyond his artistic pursuits, J.Kirby is determined to build a new life for himself. Recently released from being incarcerated, he aims to work and live in the Melbourne area and do it to be closer to his son.

The Torch is committed to supporting J.Kirby as one of our emerging artists. We invite you to explore more of his work here and join us in celebrating his journey. To see more from The Torch, please click here.