Elizabeth Durack (1915–2000) spent her formative years in the Kimberley region of Western Australia living on a remote cattle station with her family where indigenous men, women and children also lived, worked and at times practiced ancient traditions. Such relatively rare early experiences with Aboriginal people, and familiarity with their culture, left an indelible mark upon Elizabeth Durack’s outlook and subsequent long creative life.
“Rim” paintings of the 1980s and ‘90s are among Durack’s late works; those of “… an artist who never stood still to watch the world pass …” 1 They featured, as part of the cerebral component, in an exhibition: Out of Sight — Out of Mind presented by the Alexander Library, Perth Cultural Centre, Western Australia, in 1991. Powerful and confronting, The Rims … emerged after extensive travels through Australia’s desert communities where Durack had been deeply affected by the breakdown of land and culture that had occurred following misguided, if well-intentioned, government policies. And – as if portents for our own times – Rim paintings reflect “a world in chaos … ” 2
It’s worth noting that Rims … are forerunners for Durack’s last series: The Art of Eddie Burrup, paintings produced under the nom de plume, alter ego, “Eddie Burrup” – a move that became controversial and heavily criticised in some quarters – yet was recognised as homage – and defended as such –by others: “Aboriginal attachment to places inherited from many generations of ancestors … does not preclude settlers from engaging with the land and people they love …” 3
1. Janda Gooding, Catalogue notes: Derivations and Directions.
The Works of Elizabeth Durack
1930s to 1950s, Art Gallery of Western Australia,
March 9 – April 30 1995
2. Jan Mayman “Looking at the world in chaos”
The National Times, Sydney, January 9–15 1983, p.20
3. Marcia Langton, “Whitefella Jump Up” Correspondence,
Quarterly Essay, Melbourne, January 2003, p.81
Also: Patrick Æ Hutchings, The Art of Elizabeth Durack
(A&R, Sydney, 1982)