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Dubbo, NSW, Australia
Painter, drawer, printmaker and installation artist Frances Belle Parker was born in 1982 in Dubbo, New South Wales. She is from the Yaegl people of northern New South Wales. Her mother, Lenore Parker, grew up on Ulgundahi Island in the Clarence River near Maclean on the New South Wales north coast and it was to Maclean that the family returned when Parker was still in pre-school. Ulgundahi Island was established as an Aboriginal Mission when the Scottish settlers moved into the surrounding area in the late 1800s. The Aboriginal people of this area and from as far away as Nambucca and Bowraville (NSW) were moved off their lands and onto the island. On the island the people were able to live a relatively 'free’ existence. They were able to continue their traditional practices even though they were under the ever-vigilant eye of the Aboriginal Protection Board. It is because of this continued cultural life that Ulgundahi contains many places of Aboriginal significance and claims a women’s sacred site.Parker began her artistic career in 2000, the same year she won the Blake Prize for Religious Art with an acrylic on canvas work titled The Journey. She was the youngest person and first Aboriginal artist to win this award. The Journey depicted a stylised Rainbow Serpent raising itself high with a Christian crucifix surrounded in a glowing light sitting atop the serpent’s head. The 2000 Blake Prize was judged by Fr Anthony Kelly, Dr Ross Mellick and Imants Tillers.Mostly, however, Parker’s work is informed by the Ulgundahi landscape and the family, community and cultural stories and memories that the island holds. Enrolling in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing at the College of Fine Arts (COFA – University of New South Wales) in 2001 enabled Parker to explore the Ulgundahi themes through scholarly research and creative practise. She completed this undergraduate degree in 2003 and continued her academic achievements at Southern Cross University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons). Ulgundahi has remained a constant throughout Parker’s post-university career. In 2007 she won the COFA Professional Development Award for her painting The vein of our existence at the 2007 'Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize’. In her artist statement in the accompanying catalogue Parker says of this work that she has depicted Beiirrimba (Clarence River) “by layering both a landscape view and an aerial view, representing my connection with the river”.The COFA Award provided Parker with a two-week residency in the COFA flat, the opportunity to work with a master artisan staff member and a solo show. Parker chose to work in printmaking with Michael Kempson. She had never worked in printmaking before with the exception of some introductory lessons during her undergraduate life. Michael Kempson introduced Parker to etching and lino-cut reduction prints. The result of this residency was her first solo exhibition, 'Identifying Ulgundahi’.In 2007 Djon Mundine curated Parker’s work into the group exhibition 'Eye Saw The Sun’ at Lismore Regional Gallery, and in 2008 into 'Ngadhu, Ngulili, Ngeaninyagu – A Personal History of Aboriginal Art’ at Campbelltown Arts Centre. In 2009 the Lismore Regional Gallery commissioned Parker to produce a New Media work to be shown as a stand-alone exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery in August and September 2009.The 2000 Blake Prize and the 2007 COFA Award are just two of a number of awards that Parker has received since embarking on an artistic career. In 2004 her installation Sorry = Reconciliation was Highly Commended in COFA’s 'Jenny Birt Award’; in 2006 she was a finalist in the 23rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award with her installation of 10,000 painted wooden clothes pegs fashioned into a map of Ulgundahi Island titled Mapping Ulgundahi; and in 2007 she was Highly Commended in the Bundjalung Art Award and was the winner of the Youth Award Category for the 'Drawing Together Art Prize’ in Canberra and the Overall Winner and Visual Arts Category winner of the 'ABC Northcoast Artsnest Award for Emerging Artists’.Parker’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Federal Department of Health and Ageing – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and in Grafton Regional Gallery. In 2009 Parker was living in Maclean and working as the Indigenous Arts Development Officer for Arts Northern Rivers as well as continuing with her work as a visual artist. Writers: Tess AllasNote: Date written: 2007 Last updated: 2011 Status: peer-reviewed
b. 1982
Frances Belle Parker is a Yaegl woman who works in a variety of media including painting, printmaking and installation. The majority of her work is based around her personal connection to the Yaegl landscape of northern New South Wales. She won the 2000 Blake Prize for Religious Art, the first Aboriginal artist to win this award.
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