Independent artists are front and centre at the Fremantle Arts Centre in Western Australia, with this year’s Revealed exhibition showing more works than ever.

Revealed is a yearly exhibition that showcases the works of new and emerging WA Aboriginal artists. With over 300 works by more than 100 artists, the exhibition celebrates the diversity in contemporary Aboriginal artistic practise in the State.

More than just an exhibition, the gallery also runs an online art market and professional development workshops for Aboriginal artists and Art Centre staff.

Artists from more than 30 remote and regional Aboriginal Art Centres are exhibiting works this year, spanning a range of styles from painting, textile, fibre and installation, to photography, print media, jewellery, carving and sculpture.

This year’s exhibition also has a stronger contingent of works from independent artists, with 15 of the 100-odd artists not being associated with an art centre.

Revealed exhibits the works of emerging Aboriginal artists across WA. Photo by Sarah Smit.

Exhibition opportunities are tougher to come by for independent artists, and Fremantle Arts Centre‘s Revealed exhibition coordinator Jane Chambers said the increased number of independents artists was one of the Centre’s goals for 2021.

“Increasing participation for independent artists has been a major focus for this year’s Revealed,” Chambers said.

“Without the infrastructure of an arts centre to support them, it can be really difficult for independent artists to connect with audiences and find opportunities to pursue their creative practice.

“The strength and variety of their works add a different perspective to the exhibition, which we can’t wait to share.”

One of the most striking works in the exhibition is a large-scale glass and neon installation by independent artist Amanda Bell, a Badimia and Yued woman. The work, titled From our lips, mouth, throats and belly, sees Bell’s favourite Noongar word, moorditj, meaning strong or good, emblazoned in pink light across an entire wall in the gallery.

The work is accompanied recordings of two Aunties Bell knows, Aunty Lola Garlett and Aunty Gloria Hill, talking about their childhoods and lives. In one story, Aunty Lola describes her first damper making experience, and at the end, describes it as “really moorditj”.

Amanda Bell’s moorditj artwork. Photo by Sarah Smit.

Bell said the work is a meditation on the connection of her language to the body, and language to history and her Ancestors.

“This word is ancient, but every time we say it it’s new — it’s ancient and new at the same time. And our Ancestors would say the same word as we say. It’s our connection, language and our bodies; our connection back,” Bell said.

“I wanted a big, shiny thing. Doing it in neon — it’s strong, its fragile, it’s beautiful.”

All of the works on display at the exhibition are for sale, and Chambers said just four days into the two-month event, many of the works have already been marked as sold.

The online art sale has been booming as well; at day two of the four-day market, art centres are adding extra work, with sales topping more than $280,000.

Chambers said seeing their works stretched onto canvases and hung in a gallery is a huge confidence booster for the participating emerging artists.

“Some of the artists on Thursday night [at the exhibition’s opening night] were very excited as their work sold and as they saw the red stickers go up. It gives them a sense of pride, and it gives them confidence in their ability,” she said.

“And obviously, it gives them an income, and they can see that this is a way that they can make money and have a career as an artist.”

By Sarah Smit