Troy Bennell, Noongar artist and member of the Balardung people, was born in 1971 in Bunbury, Western Australia. He completed a course in Aboriginal Studies at Bunbury’s South West Regional College of TAFE in 1988. In his younger years, Bennell was a member of the Middar Dance Group. Bennell began painting after attending a workshop with Lance Chadd , and enhanced his skills after participating in another workshop with Shane Pickett ; his uncles Danny and Lenny Khan (his mother’s brothers) have been important reference points for Bennell’s artistic practice. Bennell has also been inspired by the Carrolup 'school’ of artists who made paintings at the Carrolup Native Settlement in the 1940s and 1950s, and his family has connections with two of those artists, Reynold Hart and Revel Cooper. In Koorah Coolingah (Children Long Ago) (2006), Bennell is quoted as saying:
“Mum can remember watching Reynold Hart and Revel Cooper, especially Reynold Hart in Collie 'cause Mum grew up on the reserve there see, and Mum and her brothers would… probably sit and watch old boy paint. Yeah Mum’s brothers they were deadly artists and I used to sit there and watch them. Mum’s older sister was married to Revel Cooper as well. They’ve got some good old yarns about him.” (pg 77).

Bennell often creates gouache landscapes, however he also makes abstract acrylic paintings in which he employs an earthy palette, and sometimes mixes sand and dirt into the paint. The marks and symbolism in these paintings represent Noongar journeys to camping sites to fish and collect food; song cycles and the six Noongar seasons that correspond with them; and weather patterns that are unique to Noongar country.

In 2001 Bennell received the Worsley Alumina Award at the 'South Western Times Survey Exhibition’ at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries. His exhibitions have included 'South West Central: Indigenous art from south Western Australia 1833-2002’ (2003) at the Art Gallery of Western Australia; 'Walyulup Dreamings’ (2004) at the Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery in Fremantle; and 'Noongar Moorditj’ (2005) at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries. He also staged a solo show titled 'Nyanyang Boodja Ngarlang Boodja: My Country, Our Country’ at the Mallalyp Gallery in 2007. In 2008 Bennell was part of an exhibition with Graham Taylor and Athol Farmer titled 'Noongar Boodja: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Ecology and Culture’, shown at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in New York. In 2006 Bennell worked alongside Shane Pickett , Lance Chadd , Yvonne Kickett, Alice Warrell and Sharyn Egan to create the Ngallak Koort Boodja (Heartland) canvas. This work, which resulted from extensive community consultation with Noongar families over three years, was commissioned to be the centrepiece of the 2006 Perth International Arts Festival. It measured eight by ten metres and the artists collaborated to create a design that represented the fourteen clans of the Noongar nation.

Bennell began working at Bunbury Regional Art Galleries in 1999, first as a community festival organiser, and then as an Indigenous Arts Development Officer from 2001. Apart from curatorial duties, this position saw him work with the Western Australian Department of Education and Training to facilitate art workshops at a range of primary schools in the region. Bennell has been involved in facilitating the artistic practice and raising the profile of Indigenous artists from the southwest of Western Australia.

Fisher, Laura
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