When artist Thea Anamara Perkins was thrust into the spotlight in early 2020 with her win in the prestigious Alice Prize, it was almost as though we’d always known her. The winning work, a portrait of her grandfather Charles and aunt Rachel, was immediately recognisable in its depiction of a private moment in an otherwise very public life. But there was also something familiar in the light and focus of the image; the way her painterly style captured the nostalgic glow of our own family albums and the memories they contain.

Perkins routinely delves into her family’s photographic archive for source material, attracted by the hyper-saturated, almost cinematic, glow of old photos, and the melancholia that comes with seeing a moment in time you can no longer access. She is most drawn to snapshots that evoke feelings of comfort and certainty – smiling faces, happy memories. The glimmer, she calls it. Her compositions hone in on this by removing the background noise, reducing the photo to its very essence – a gesture, a colour, or an evocation of place.

There is something deeper in the choice of imagery too; a desire to depict Aboriginal family life as she knows it – connected, secure, and full of unparalleled love. Her portraits are a chance to explore her own identity and memories while reprogramming the narrative around First Nations people more broadly in Australia.

Thea Anamara Perkins lives and works in Sydney, Australia. In 2020 she won The Alice Prize National Contemporary Art Award and the Dreaming Award for Emerging Art at the Australia Council First Nations Arts Awards. A finalist in the 2019 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship and the 2019 Archibald Prize, she was the lead artist on the 2018 restoration of the iconic ‘40000 years’ mural in Redfern, Sydney.

Carrie McCarthy 2020