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Sydney, NSW, Australia
A young Indigenous artist, Jessica Birk was born in 1984 on the Northern Beaches of Sydney where she was still living in 2008. Birk is a proud descendant of the Yaegl people, from the Northern Rivers of NSW, The Clarence Valley. Through her art Birk asserts herself as a contemporary storyteller of the Yaegl people and her art-making practice allows her to explore to what extent she can imprint her identity and personal experiences, as well as the notions of belonging and familial lineage, upon the imagery, the colours, the patterns and the forms in her work.Birk has a strong connection to both the Northern Beaches and the Northern Rivers areas of NSW and her work focuses on these areas and aims to articulate her feelings of belonging that are tied to these places. Having grown up on the Northern Beaches Birk has grown to know and respect the area over time and her connection to the Northern Rivers is through her mother’s family, a legacy and gift given to her as a descendant of that land. For Birk, the notion of belonging is an abstract one and she aims to develop a visual language that enables her audience to grasp the implicitly rich understanding of a landscape where belonging means knowing your country intimately. As such, every component of her images have a meaning where the colours, the patterns and the forms all combine to visually articulate the 'holistic’ experience of the landscapes. Says Birk “This understanding of country allows for a two-way communication to evolve, between those belonging and the country to which they belong. Country is spoken to, sung to, loved and mourned, just as if were a family member. This personification of the landscape allows a more personal interpretation of what lies in it; everything then has a purpose and a story to tell, from the colours of the landscape right down to the stones within it.” The imagery Birk uses serves as a metaphor for the strength and enduring quality of the ancestral presence within the landscape. She says, “By doing so I want to show that in order to tap into this collective wisdom and knowledge of the land you need to learn to love and look after it as a living entity.An 'abstract’ landscape becomes intrinsically more literal through a 'holistic’ representation of a landscape and thus includes its aesthetic qualities, its colours, textures and representational forms, but also its past, its future and its stories.” In 2006 Birk graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Printmaking) from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. Since 2003 she has participated in a number of group exhibitions and in 2006 she had a solo show at Manly Regional Art Gallery entitled 'Born Belonging’ and was a finalist in the Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize. Writers: Birk, Jessica Date written: 2008 Last updated: 2011
b. 1984
An Indigenous painter and printmaker living in Sydney. Birk is a graduate of the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and her work is predominately themed around her coastal home and cultural links.
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