DADAA Exhibitions at Midland Junction Arts Centre

Three exhibitions open at Midland Junction Arts Centre on Saturday 8th of May, with artists from DADAA’s Midland studio featuring in both TAP [Tactile Art Project] and Blue Beautiful.

TAP [Tactile Art Project], curated by Oliver-Max Taylor, is a showcase of tactile and multi-sensory artworks intended to be touched, seen, heard and smelled. This year’s iteration of the annual In Focus exhibition, presents 30 artists who work out of DADAA’s Midland studios. The project began with a few ceramic artists with vision impairment wanting to create work for others with vision impairment, and soon grew to include many participants from across DADAA Midland’s painting and textile workshops.

Blue Beautiful is an installation by emerging artist Dylan Madurun, whose arts practice connects a variety of subject matter with his favourite colour, blue. Dylan works out of DADAA’s Midland and Hamersley studios and was the recipient of a Nexus Grant in 2019. He was also Awesome Festival’s Artist in Residence at the State Theatre Centre in 2020.

In addition to free tactile tours of these exhibitions, DADAA’s Access All Arts team will provide vision awareness training, and tactile tour training to other City of Swan cultural groups as well as training to industry groups. This will build disability and access awareness, and encourage more programs to be inclusive of the vision impaired/blind community.

Alongside these two exhibitions is Critical Time, which brings together the work of Tom Freeman, Andre Lipscombe, Joana Partyka and Gemma Watson, artists “who keep time, waste time, or chronicle time, charting tempos through meditative, accumulating, and reflective practices”.

* please note that due to Covid restrictions, the opening event has been rescheduled to Fri 28 May 6:30pm – 8pm | Registration essential 


Exhibitions run Sat, 8 May – Sat, 17 July 2021
Wed – Fri 10am – 5pm, Sat 11am – 3pm
Midland Junction Arts Centre | 276 Great Eastern Hwy Midland WA

image: Mark Landon, Amphora (detail), 2021, ceramic

Job Opportunity | Exhibition Coordinator and Curator

Work with us! 

DADAA has an exciting opportunity for an experienced curator or visual arts producer to develop and manage the DADAA Fremantle Gallery program.

  • Develop and deliver programs and exhibitions for DADAA Fremantle Gallery
  • Permanent Part Time: 15.2 hrs p/w (0.4 FTE)
  • Salary $70,000 pro rata plus super

The Exhibition Coordinator and Curator is a critical artistic and leadership role at DADAA, responsible for curatorial programming and coordination in a space where access, inclusion and participation are at the forefront.  The Gallery program provides a vital platform to amplify the voice of artists with disability.  This platform in turn, allows for the organisation to further advocate and activate the role that artists with disabilities can play in the community. The successful applicant will be able to identify the intersection of disability and contemporary practice to create a dialogue that engages with the wider community.   

DADAA’s Vision: Art for Social Change, has led twenty-five years of challenging the barriers to cultural participation faced by people with disability or a lived experience of mental illness and their communities. Applicants with lived experience of disability and/or mental health issues are encouraged to apply. The successful applicant will have an awareness of the politics around arts practice (particularly disability arts) and the ability to foster solid connections and partnerships within the contemporary arts and community sectors.

The role 

The Exhibition Coordinator and Curator is responsible for overseeing DADAA Fremantle Gallery’s exhibition and creative arts program. DADAA’s focus is on innovative, disability-led, participatory, and social engaged practices. The role provides high-level curatorial, administrative, and project management support to facilitate the development and delivery of high-quality programming and audience outcomes. The Gallery program will include regular exhibitions and public programs alongside active artist engagement through activities such as labs and workshops. The Exhibition Coordinator and Curator will work closely with the Creative Producer and the Director of Arts Services, as well as liaising with the DADAA team and project partners.

Key responsibilities 

  • Develop and manage the exhibition and public programs and artist engagement
  • Support opportunities for emerging curators with disability to program in the space  
  • Communicate and collaborate with staff, artists, and project partners
  • Coordinate and manage Gallery volunteers and reception staff
  • Manage budget
  • Manage and supervise the installation team, including artwork handling, packing and unpacking
  • Manage artwork loans and shipping/freight
  • Assist in funding applications and reporting 
  • Work with the Head of Communications to create engaging and creative communications and collateral
  • Work with the Director of Arts Services and Creative Producer to establish the ongoing vision and direction for the Gallery

You will bring

  • Knowledge of contemporary visual arts and arts practice
  • Curatorial experience in a gallery setting
  • Project management experience
  • Established networks in the contemporary and visual arts sectors
  • Understanding of public programming and audience engagement programs in a gallery context
  • Lived experience or knowledge of working with artists with disability and/or mental health issues and their barriers to participation

DADAA actively promotes a workplace that seeks to include, welcome, and value the unique contributions of all people. Applications from people with lived experience of disability and/or mental health issues, from culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds are encouraged.

To apply, please send a cover letter outlining your skills and experience as they relate to the role’s key responsibilities and a current CV to, attention Fiona.

Applications close 11.59PM (AWST) Saturday May 15, 2021

image: Jessica Wyld Photography, 2019

Artist Spotlight | John Morrison

Fremantle Arts Centre’s annual Revealed exhibition showcases emerging Aboriginal artists from across WA. Featuring work from over 100 artists whose diverse practices encompass painting, installation, textiles, photography, print media, video, jewellery, carving and sculpture, this year’s exhibition also includes John Morrison, an emerging artist and multi-media designer who works out of DADAA’s Midland studio.

John was born in Darwin and currently lives in the Midland area. His mother, who is also an artist, is from Queensland with connections to Central Australia. John’s father is a Noongar man from the South West of WA.

Through his practice, John explores the interactive potential of animation and gaming as a way of telling his stories and sharing his love of pop culture and Japanese animation. “I love anime and manga. I read a lot of books, novels, comics, and cartoons. I also love all types of video games, and I also love to watch related stuff on youtube.” John dreams of travelling, with Japan at the top of his list of destinations where he can further explore his fascination with Japanese culture.

As John’s practice has progressed, he has become more interested in exploring world-building: each with idiosyncratic rules and inhabited by characters with special skills and abilities. John’s work, World Monsters, fills Fremantle Art Centre’s children’s education zone, offering a small glimpse into John’s carefully constructed world of gaming characters and fantastical creatures through a series works on paper which are then brought to life via a digital game.

The first prototype of this work and the console were acquired by AGWA for the State Art Collection in 2020. John was also recently selected to be part of the Ability Centre’s 70th anniversary exhibition which opens in July.

Revealed is on at Fremantle Arts Centre until May 23, 2021.

images: (top) John Morrison, World Monsters, 2021, video game, console and screen, works on paper (dimensions variable), installation view from Revealed, 2021, Fremantle Arts Centre, photo: Pixel Poetry, courtesy of Fremantle Arts Centre. (bottom) John Morrison with his work, World Monsters, installation view from Revealed, 2021, Fremantle Arts Centre, photo: Pixel Poetry, courtesy of Fremantle Arts Centre.

Raf Gonzales | You Can’t Rush Art

There’s this round table at my parents’ house that has been there for a long time now. It’s white and circular in shape with a wooden underlay and a sturdy metal leg right in the middle. Though simple, it’s one of those pieces of furniture that comes to mind easily for me. On birthdays, the rolling chorus of mariachis singing Las Mañanitas would fill the air, kettle bubbling alongside, and the white table now adorned with a feast suitable for the special occasion. As a first-generation Australian born and raised in a migrant family, owning a piece of furniture was a symbol of stability: it is one of only a few items that always reminds me of home.

No matter the situation, be it confrontational, celebratory, or mundane, the round table has been a consistent presence throughout my family history. I was sitting at that table when my sister Raquel told our family she was pregnant. I remember everything from that night: my Dad was sitting at his usual comfortable spot, my nephews running around him in a chaotic pre-sugar rush high. I could feel my excitement growing as I eagerly watched over my mum prepping my favourite meal of pupusas, a traditional snack from El Salvador that always elevates my cultural pride. We gathered with anticipation around the table. From the moment we heard Raquel say those two magical words, my jaw dropped as our collective initial disbelief transformed into joy and utter bliss. As the heart of our kitchen, you could say that this table forms a tapestry of the history of my family’s life, of all the good and the bad.

I was reminded of this round table when I first saw Olivia Biasin’s art work at DADAA Fremantle’s Gallery as part of the exhibition In Record Time. An assemblage of collation and contemplation replicates a functioning computer desk, meticulously organised with sketchbooks and various art equipment, it is laid out in a way which mimics the artist’s own home. Milk crates configured around the desk further create the atmosphere of a workable space. A neat arrangement of polaroids surrounding the desk give the viewer an insight into the life that this furniture has had – alternately one of chaotic creative mess or precise tidiness, at the will of its owner. In each image Olivia deliberately positions the camera in the exact same spot to record the working life of the desk, and by extension, her. Their arrangement is not linear, but rather they move back and forwards in time, painting the idea of an ongoing process. Despite their volume, not one is a repeat. Each frame captures a distinct moment in Olivia’s life – from the mundane to the personal and vulnerable artistic struggle. Yet one thing remains constant throughout: the desk. Olivia’s equivalent to my family’s round table.

Standing in front of her work, I imagine Olivia sitting by this desk spending hour upon hour labouring over concept designs for her art installations. Blunt pencils are scattered around the place, while eraser smudges and scrunched up paper perhaps signal a failure in execution. Hands aching and blistered, she literally carries her work as a maker between them. Speaking as a fellow artist, I can understand the relentless pursuit of artistic enlightenment. And I doubt that I am the only one.

Clare Peake’s pottery is a patient craft with no single pot being the same in design, structure, or character. Even just looking at her work, you get a strong sense of the labour intensive process of her craft: from the building to the drying to the painting and to drying again. The sheer volume of Clare’s work speaks to her level of commitment to seeing her project through.

This perseverance is also evident in Rocky Lu’s drawings of buildings, whose intricate attention to precision, shape, tone, and colour, create an undeniable sense of stamina with each work taking up to several days to complete. Yet standing in front of them, you don’t get any impression of fatigue from the artist. His drawings are free from indentation, pressure or other blemishes.

In stark contrast, knocking into my ankles with obnoxious persistence, Bjoern Rainer Adamson’s robot, with its insidious recorded narration, serves as a constant and daunting reminder that the expectation to justify and quantify your practice as an artist is lurking just around the corner. Together, they are a collection of personal reflections around practice and process which each share a memory and perspective of the passage of time.

Lastly, we can’t really talk about the labour that is evident in In Record Time without addressing Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowt’s dedication to his practice. Roch’s work invokes a discipline and a respect for the rituals that have been carried out by him on a daily basis for the last 10 years. I have fond memories of passing Roch in the DADAA halls: in his usual spot, labouring away with his set of pencils and textas. I didn’t really have a full grasp of what his work entailed until I saw it all displayed here in the gallery space. A prolific body of work, Roch’s art represents a clear and purposeful practice, based around an idiosyncratic set of rules and patterns of working. I know that I speak for everyone at DADAA who knew Roch when I say that his spirit as a colourful, focused, and concise artist lives on in this body of work.

Art is something that takes time to evolve: from the first inception of an idea to its resolution, it is time that shapes a work, together with constant patience and commitment. In Record Time represents the practice of art in both its full glory and in its slow monotonous slug. More than just something audacious to look at, the process of art embodies our stories and our souls and how we share these with one another. Whether it be a sentimental family table, or a work of art, our memories and our stories are built into the objects in our lives. In loving memory of Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowt, In Record Time is the ultimate analogy for why you can’t rush art.

Raf Gonzalez


images: (below) Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowtuntitled, series c2010 – 2020, pencil and pastel on paper, 30 x 21 cm (each), photo: Pixel Poetry, 2020 |  (top) Olivia Biasin, An assemblage of collation and contemplation (detail), 2020, dimensions variable, photo: Pixel Poetry, 2020

The Other Film Festival WA 2021

A highlight of DADAA’s summer program was The Other Film Festival WA which was presented as part of the 2021 Perth Festival. With a program of film screenings and artist spotlights driven by leading creatives with disability, The Other Film Festival represented the innovation and critical engagement with disability-politics that our creative sector needs.

Originally an Arts Access Victoria initiative, The Other Film Festival started in 2004, becoming a ground-breaking, disability-led and fully accessible film program elevating Deaf people and people with disability’s voice, stories and skills within the Australian screen industry. Huge thanks to Caroline Bowditch, CEO of Arts Access Victoria, and Fiona Tuomy for their guidance and support in bringing this concept to Western Australia.

Film Program Curator, Sarah Collins selected films from around the world which reflected complex and diverse understandings and experiences of disability. “Disability in mainstream film tends to have specific tropes and clichés which serve to “inspire” an audience and often win awards for able-bodied actors for their “bravery” in portraying a character whose entire life is usually defined by their disability. I have enjoyed finding films that subvert these tropes (if you subscribe to the idea the people with disability can do anything, how do you feel about them planning and carrying out a robbery?) and focus on people telling their own stories, both in front of and behind the camera.”

DADAA would like to thank the wonderfully talented artistic leaders: Sarah Houbolt, Anna Seymour, Matt Shilcock, Jenny Sealey, Gaelle Mellis, again Caroline Bowditch, Tony Sarre and Matt Fraser, for their inspirational presentations of practice, resilience, determination and above all, disability leadership.

Recordings of the artist spotlights will be made available on the DADAA website in the future.

The Other Film Festival WA was presented in association with Perth Festival with the support of Act Belong Commit Mentally Healthy WA campaign and Healthway.

images: (top) Still from Single, Blank Films Inc, 2020; (right) DADAA Board member Wendy Martin in conversation with Matt Fraser, Creative Director of the BBC series, Crip Tales, photo: Jacqueline Homer

DADAA launches the Digital Diversity Project in Midland

DADAA has launched the Digital Diversity Project which builds on the success of our previous digital arts development work. Made possible through the Fremantle Foundation’s WA Relief & Recovery Fund: COVID-19, the five-month project aims to address digital disadvantage and inclusion in the Midland area.

Over the years, DADAA projects such as The Lost Generation Project, stARTspeak, Paper Project, and more recently the Digital Transitions Project, have aimed to increase digital inclusion and digital literacy for people with disabilities, as well as introducing new opportunities for creativity and self-expression through digital technology.

The Lost Generation Project was DADAA’s first long-term project (2007 – 2013) in digital story telling practices that engaged older people with intellectual disability living in supported accommodation to connect with their communities. While StARTSPEAK explored the impact of touch screen technologies for people with disabilities and, for over 12 years, influenced DADAA’s work with vastly diverse communities and individuals, including older people, Aboriginal people with disability and people with disabilities from linguistically diverse communities.

The Digital Diversity Project is a capacity building initiative that came about as a response to DADAA’s online workshop delivery during the outbreak of Covid-19 in term 2, 2020.  This rapid shift to a digital platform was an enormous challenge, without specific training (and sometimes, adequate resources) for arts workers, and limited digital exposure, skills and/or support for many of our artists. DADAA’s arts workers adapted remarkably to this challenge to ensure workshops continued online and that DADAA’s community was not left isolated. However, upon evaluating the online workshops, it became clear that there was a disparity between the Fremantle and Midland sites with the uptake of online workshops in Midland being significantly lower. 

The Digital Diversity Project aims to address this gap by ensuring that DADAA’s Midland arts workers, support workers and participants are given the resources, skills and support needed to successfully engage in online workshops should we have to go into lockdown again. The project also aims to increase engagement in the exciting creative potential digital technology can bring to the art studio and the work of DADAA’s participants.

The project will be evaluated using the Most Significant Change Method, a monitoring and evaluation system based on a qualitative, participatory approach where stakeholders are involved in all aspects of the evaluation. By focussing on four domains of change: confidence and competency, social connectedness, attitude and degree of engagement, and creativity and self-expression, the impact of the project is evaluated through baseline interviews and then the recording of Significant Change stories told by participants at the end of the project.

It is hoped that the project will extended and eventually be rolled out across other DADAA sites.

images: Installation views of Homepage (December 4 – 17, 2020), an exhibition which showcased artists’ work from DADAA’s Digital Transitions Project and online workshop program, photo: Louise Coghill

DADAA Board welcomes two new directors

DADAA is delighted to welcome two new directors to its board, Michelle Broun and Aurelio Costarella. Together they bring a wealth of experience and add more diverse voices to the DADAA Board.

black and white headshots of Michelle Broun and Aurelio Costarella

(l-r) Michelle Broun and Aurelio Costarella

Michelle Broun is a proud Yindjibarndi women living and working on Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodja. Michelle has worked at many levels and across many platforms to produce, promote and present Aboriginal arts and culture.  She is a curator, cultural planner and creative producer.  She is currently the Curator of Australian First Nations Art at John Curtin Gallery, focusing on research, presentation and community engagement related to the collection of artworks produced by the child inmates of the Carrolup Native Settlement, and helping to develop The Carrolup Centre for Truth-telling. 

Michelle has had a long association with DADAA and says that she admires DADAA’s work and advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. As Curator of Australian First Nations Arts at Curtin University Gallery and a board member of Marrugeku, together several decades of experience working in the arts, she says it’s a chance to give back to another special and important organisation in WA’s cultural landscape. “DADAA’s philosophy of equal rights and opportunities aligns with mine, especially in relation to the rights of Aboriginal people. And of course, I love the arts. I expect I will learn many things from DADAA. And it will allow me to impart some of my knowledge to the organisation to help further diversify the organisation, like Aboriginal staff, arts workers and more Aboriginal artists too – the potential for more collaborative projects is really exciting.”

Aurelio Costarella is an internationally renowned Australian designer and artist, whose work has been showcased on runways globally, in numerous exhibitions and publications, and is housed in public collections including the WA Museum Boola Bardip, Powerhouse Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria. 

In 2015 Aurelio decided that it was time to talk openly about his life-long struggle with mental un-wellness and was soon appointed as Ambassador for Lifeline and continues to speak and advocate for those living with mental health issues. Since shuttering his fashion business in July 2017, Aurelio has also shifted his focus to developing his art practice, currently working on a series of abstract mixed media on canvas and paper. 

Aurelio’s extensive business experience and mental health advocacy leave him well-qualified to support the DADAA’s Board as it drives the organisation’s strategic direction. ‘I’m delighted to join the DADAA board as a lived experience, mental health advocate and art practitioner. Working with a strong and diverse board dedicated to shaping paths for persons of varying abilities is something that fills me with a great sense of purpose.’ 

Dr Scott Hollier, Chair of the DADAA Board, joins with the Board and DADAA staff in welcoming Michelle and Aurelio.


image: (top) Karen McCullough, Lava Flow, 2020, mixed media on paper, 90 x 42 cm. Courtesy the artist.


Transition Out of Lockdown: Perth, Peel and South West

Following the WA Government’s announcement of a relaxation of lockdown restrictions from 6pm today, DADAA’s offices will re-open on Monday, February 8. We look forward to safely welcoming everyone back to DADAA as soon as possible, however, as we join with the rest of the community in transitioning out of lockdown, access to DADAA offices will be limited to participants with disability and their advocates, support workers, and staff.

Our Term 1 studio and workshop program will be commencing in the coming week and our hubs are currently being prepared to once again accommodate physical distancing. PPE (including masks) will also be provided to all staff and participants.

The Arts Services team is finalising changes to our programs, including our two upcoming Perth Festival events: Fair Isle and The Other Film Festival WA, and details of these changes will be announced shortly. 

The safety and wellbeing of our staff, participants, artists and the broader community is our priority, and while we are pleased to be working towards re-opening, our thoughts are also with those who are being impacted by the ongoing and devastating bushfire emergency in the Perth Hills.

Monday, February 1 2021

Lockdown: Perth, Peel and South West

In response to the Western Australian Government’s COVID-19 announcement yesterday, DADAA’s Fremantle and Midland offices will be closed until Monday, February 8 and staff are working remotely.

Workshop and studio programs in Fremantle and Midland have been cancelled this week. As Lancelin and Geraldton sit outside the lockdown area, their programs will continue to run.

The opening event for DADAA Gallery’s new exhibition Fair Isle on Friday, February 5 has been postponed until further notice, as have the artist talks which were scheduled for Saturday, February 6. We will advise you of the new dates as soon as possible.

Please note this is a potentially volatile situation and lockdown dates may change. We will provide updates regarding any further impacts to DADAA’s services and programs as they come to hand.

We look forward to opening our offices and recommencing our programs once it is safe to do so.

Should you need further information, please email or call 9430 6616.

DADAA participants, family members and carers have all been contacted regarding the temporary changes to our services. If you need further assistance or support, please contact the DADAA Client Services Team.

Call for EOIs: Old Fremantle Boys’ School Café Operator

Are you an experienced café operator who’s passionate about community and food? DADAA is looking for Expressions of Interest for a unique opportunity to operate an inclusive cafe in a significant cultural hub.

An opportunity exists for an experienced café operator to take on the lease of the fully equipped café situated within the heritage listed Old Fremantle Boys’ School.

Located in the heart of Fremantle’s rapidly developing East End, the Old Fremantle Boys’ School underwent significant refurbishment in 2019. The site is now a significant cultural facility designed around the arts access needs of Western Australian artists with disability: home to DADAA’s head office, studios, cinema and gallery, along with CircusWA and the Fremantle Foundation.

The café forms a vital part of a strategy to welcome the community into the Boys’ School, and an essential part of this vision is the establishment of an inclusive workforce, providing training and employment of people with disability.

With space for up to 20 people inside and an attractive, spacious courtyard with seating for 28 people, there is also the opportunity for the café to develop as a vibrant function and event space and enhance DADAA’s program of exhibition openings, cinema screenings and cultural partnerships.

Further Information

For more information about this opportunity and how to submit an Expression of Interest, please download the following document: Old Fremantle Boys’ School Cafe EOI 2020

Expressions of Interest close 4pm, Tuesday 29 September 

Rafael Gonzalez I The Visual Language of Cheeky Dogs

This reflection by Rafael Gonzalez on Dion Beasley’s  Cheeky Dogs, the most recent exhibition at DADAA Fremantle Gallery, is the first in what will be an occasional series of critical writing by writers with a disability. This is part of DADAA’s strategy to provide opportunities for writers with a disability, and to encourage the engagement of these writers with the artistic community, with a particular focus on the important function of critical arts writing and review.

Rafael Gonzalez is a writer whose passion for the arts, coupled with his interests in pop culture, have influenced his imagination to create stories to captivate and inspire others. Raf predominantly writes speculative fictional narratives, although his work has ranged across a number of genres and conventions. Raf is mentored at DADAA Fremantle by Artsworker Mayma Awaida. Raf is also part of the Centre for Story’s Inclusion Matters Mentoring Program. You can read more about him here.

The moment that I walked into the gallery space at DADAA, I was immediately drawn to the bright orange wall in the centre of the venue. A clear tribute to the red earth that always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land, it is even more noticeable to me that this work centralises the experiences of the artist and his hometown of Tennant Creek.

As you take in the delicate drawings and etchings displayed on this wall, there is a recurrent use of negative space and strong linear style that features in each of Dion’s works. The orange was certainly a focal point of the entire room and included some of Dion’s more experimental pieces which I assume may have been grouped together to highlight his pursuit of different mediums and to hint at some of the significant themes to come later.

It felt as though the gallery asked for me to move around it in a clockwise direction. Starting from the left of the orange rotating wall, I determined that the space was curated not just thematically, but also for the purpose of creating an overarching narrative to Dion’s subjects.

The first set of drawings represent notions of gathering and direction. With visible linear shapes representing the iconic Cheeky Dogs, they appear clustered together like a real pack of wild dogs. As an individual who has lived primarily in big cities along the west coast of Australia, I can only speculate that the way in which they are huddled together, is evocative of the wide open spaces that you find in a rural town like Tennant Creek or its neighbour, Canteen Creek. My reading of this is that, for me, gathering and coming together is something which is synonymous with community. This theme in Dion’s work is particularly significant as it embodies the sense of closeness that living in rural towns can encourage.

The second grouping as we move to the right, encapsulates geographical notions of place and identity. In these works, Dion has captured not just the different types of camp dogs that he may have seen, or possibly imagined, but his deep understanding of being part of a community and its politics. There is a strong sense of characterisation amongst each of the dogs – we can easily observe the nature of the dogs, their behaviours and mannerisms, their formation as a group, and also their individual physiological quirks, which make each dog one-of-a-kind. Dion didn’t make any two cheeky dogs the same. I imagine that Dion is using the dogs as a way to understand his relationship to the town and express his understanding of its politics.

A motif I noticed throughout Dion’s work is the allusion to geographical mapping. While I understand that recognising and connecting with a sense of place plays a big role in Aboriginal storytelling and art, I also suspect that the geographical identification of the dog’s hometowns in Cheeky Dogs responds to the way in which those dogs fit into each of those spaces. Dion details whether the dogs are sitting on the outskirts of their towns, or the particular parts of the towns they are hanging around in, while also paying attention to each of the dog’s sense of purpose in the town and which areas they are monitoring and lurking near. It seems as though this mirrors the way in which we create our own sense of belonging with place and create systems within our communities. As we decide who plays what role in our own social circles, Dion pays attention to each of the dog’s sense of purpose in the towns and creates a sense of agency and ownership amongst them.

As you leave the gallery, the final group of works shift the tone of the exhibition entirely. As you observe the actions of the dogs in these scenes, you see a wild nature to the dogs; a nature which is driven by instinct and hierarchy. You can sense this chaotic element of Dion’s dogs through not only their visual disposition, but also through the faces of his subjects. The dogs are now aggressive, with teeth bared. It is violent, intimidating, and territorial. Dion is speaking to the universal truth that we have seen across cultures time and time again: the fight for dominance and power.

At first impression, I must admit, I didn’t totally know how to respond to these works. However, after a few more visits and a deeper exploration of Dion’s history and context, I have since been able to unpack his work and place it within a wider cultural understanding. He has incorporated a pattern based on his perspective and understanding of the world, including the importance of Aboriginal storytelling. This creates a series of enjoyable pieces that speak strongly to their place and community. His drawings function as his own way of continuing and navigating the traditions of storytelling of those who came before him.

I, of course, come from a completely different background, but found there were still ways for me to connect to Dion’s work. I see Australia as a home, but, as someone who came from a migrant family, I don’t have a deep historical connection to the land in the way in which Dion might. I have some roots, in that Australia is a safe place for me, but I am also detached from them, in that I can feel the struggle between the language and culture from my Salvadorian history. I can empathise with Dion and his deafness and being non-verbal, as it relates strongly to the separation from language, or our cultural mother tongues in a way which I have personally experienced. As an writer, visual arts are a new language for me, and I suspect that Dion and many others use this medium to convey stories without having to juggle words and meanings in their heads. Dion’s artwork is a way to express what he sees around him, and a visual medium which speaks for him.

Rafael Gonzalez