Athol Farmer was born in Gnowangerup, in the Great Southern region in Western Australia, in 1960. Farmer spent most of his early life in Gnowangerup, finishing school there and working on farms in the area. He was inspired by the Noongar children artists who created paintings and drawings while living at the Carrolup Native Settlement in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As a child, Farmer had observed Bella Kelly and Revel Cooper – both artists associated with the Carrolup settlement – make their work, and Farmer’s own work has been greatly influenced by the Carrolup 'style’. In the book Koorah Coolingah (Children Long Ago) , Farmer states:
“The Carrolup style is to me a way of looking back. It’s important because it is part of our history. It is a way of capturing the essence of the Noongar people, their way of life, a visual means of expressing our connection with the land” (2006, pg 79).
In 1990, Farmer undertook an art course at TAFE in Katanning and he held his first solo exhibition in Katanning in 1992. The following year he was artist in residence at Hay Street Gallery, Perth. In 2006 he held the solo show 'Carrolup Connections’ at the Mungart Boodja Art Centre in Katanning, and in the same year he, along with his nephew Peter Farmer and Leonard (Jack) Williams, was commissioned by Curtin University to create a ceremonial wooden 'doak’ (a traditional Noongar hunting and digging tool that was used across several generations of a Noongar family) for use on formal occasions at the University. In 2007 Farmer travelled to Colgate University in New York to view a large collection of Carrolup paintings that had been unearthed at the University’s Picker Art Gallery in 2004, works that had entered the collection decades before. During Farmer’s visit, his own works were included in an exhibition staged at the Picker Art Gallery titled 'Palimpsest: Noongar Art Past and Present’ (2007). The following year he exhibited alongside Troy Bennell and Graham Taylor in 'Noongar Boodja: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Ecology and Culture’ at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in New York. In 2009 Farmer participated in the 'Noongar Country’ exhibition at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries.

Fisher, Laura
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