Meeykba Shane Pickett (b.1957) spent much of his youth at Quairading, a wheatbelt town in Western Australia. From a family of Nyoongar artists he describes his work as the beneficiary of the legacy from both his father’s Jdewat traditions and his mother’s Balladong ancestry. He graduated from the Claremont Art School in 1983, though he had begun exhibiting in 1976 when only nineteen. His national recognition came early with his selection for the finals of NATSIAA in 1984 and in 1986 receiving the award for Best Painting in a European Medium.

Pickett has exhibited in every Australian state and territory throughout his career. His work has been recognised in numerous art awards and exhibitions. He won the inaugural 2007 'Drawing Together Art Award’, has been chosen as a finalist in the 'Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award’ numerous times, including winning the People’s Choice award in 2009. He was selected by Brenda L. Croft for the 'National Indigenous Art Triennial ’07: Culture Warriors’ at the National Gallery of Australia (touring nationally and shown in Washington D.C. in 2009).

In 2003 Pickett’s works featured in the first comprehensive survey to trace the rich multiplicity of Nyoongar visual culture, 'South West Central: Indigenous Art from South Western Australia 1833-2002’, also curated by Brenda L. Croft. In 2008 he was a finalist in the 'Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards’ at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the recipient of the People’s Choice award. In 2009 he was again selected to participate in the 'Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards’, the only artist selected to participate in both exhibitions.

Pickett began his career with high-keyed colour depictions of Nyoongar stories of Country in a figurative style. In the early 2000s he abandoned figuration in favour of gestural abstraction, while still remaining focused on land and a responsibility to teach successive generations the necessity of knowing and caring for Country. In later work he charts the seasons, light and the lay of the Nyoongar landscape and the weather patterns and stories. He produces highly personal, ethereal landscapes that reveal an intimate relationship to and understanding of land, law and Country. Through his work he emphasizes the need for knowledge of weather patterns and shares his respect for the six Nyoongar seasons. His works often tell a previously untold or concealed history of Nyoongar lands, underscoring the deep connections, pride and confidence that come from identity, family and knowledge.

Inhabiting the spiritual space between what is concealed and revealed, his paintings explore the Nyoongar season cycle and in so doing create complex visual analogues for the persistence and renaissance of Nyoongar cultural awareness throughout the south-west. As he has said, his works “bring a respect and awareness of Aboriginal culture imbued with the spirituality present in Nyoongar values.” (artist’s statement, Mossenson Gallery). Pickett describes his art as simultaneously portraying an inner peace and the harshness of an everyday Indigenous journey through a modern world. McLean (in Croft 2007, p150) acknowledges Pickett’s painting as a legacy of the “vibrant postcolonial Nyoongar school of landscape art” initiated in Western Australia in the 1950s and now known as the Carrolup tradition.

Pickett’s stature in the community was recognised in 2006 when the united Nyoongar elders selected him to contribute to the monumental group painting Ngallak Kaart Boadja for the Perth International Arts Festival 2007. His work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Gary Dufour
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