JCG is highlighting one of Australia’s foremost textile artists Nalda Searles, who’s stunning work Ininti Wartu Minyma Kutjara Yalatja (Seed Blanket Two Women Walking) was most recently on display as part of the Gallery’s 2018 exhibition Directors Cut. The work featured a stunning woollen blanket on which she had stitched Ininti and Nitu seeds.
The Gallery also held an exhibition of Nalda’s fibre textile artworks as part of an Art on the Move touring exhibition in 2009. drifting in my own land featured sculptural and installation artworks constructed from native fibre and found objects that served as a powerful expression of identity in relation to both the physical and social landscape.
Nalda was born in Kalgoorlie in 1945 and grew up in the small town of Bullfinch in the Eastern Wheatbelt. One of six girls, Nalda often spent her time as a child “finding something creative to do.”
She left school at 15 and undertook training in psychiatric nursing before taking off to travel through Africa, Australia and Asia. On her return to Australia in 1975, she was drawn to the arts, and her creative drive took over.
In 1979, Nalda took a short course in macramé and learned how to manipulate materials, igniting a passion for the woven cord and string. After completing the course, Nalda began to collect materials from the land – bark, sticks, stones – and taught herself to weave fibre textile baskets.
In 1982, Nalda applied for and received a grant from the Australia Council to develop a significant body of work. She packed her car and headed for Sandford Rocks, spending the next six weeks camping, gathering materials and weaving local fibres into primitive vessels. She coiled her stories into forms taking influence from both her travels and childhood.
Upon her return, Nalda showed those works in her first major solo exhibition, Bush Meetings and Basketry with the Crafts Council of Western Australia. After graduating from Curtin University with a BA in Fine Arts , she was invited to run a Healthway program in Kalgoorlie, teaching local Indigenous people, many of whom lived on the streets, to engage in art-based activities.
Pantjiti Mary McLean, a Ngaatjatjarra woman, was one of the program’s participants and she and Nalda formed a lifelong friendship; Pantjiti taught Ngaatjatjarra language to Nalda and they would later collaborate on major pieces.
Pantjiti would go on to do a residency at the Curtin School of Art and hold an exhibition of drawings at the John Curtin Gallery in 2001, assisted by Nalda.
In 2009, Artsource endowed Nalda with a Lifetime Achievement Award and she has been a teacher and mentor to countless artists over many decades throughout Western Australia.
Nalda’s work is held in numerous collections around Australia including the Curtin University Art Collection.
World Embroidery Day, which celebrates all things needle and thread, began in 2011 by Tacklebo Broderiakademi, a Swedish embroidery association.
The John Curtin Gallery is proud of its diverse exhibition program and exhibiting artists and supports the #knowmyname campaign, which calls for equal power, respect and recognition for female creators through social media, exhibitions, research and creative collaborations.