How many Australians can tell you where Lockhart River is, or point to it on a map? Depends where you ask the question, but down south, the answer would be “very few”.
Once in a while, the Cape York community makes the news when a cyclone comes in off the Coral Sea. Otherwise, the rest of the nation rarely hears of the place.
But in the art world, it’s a very different story. For about ten years now, Lockhart River has been one of the best known names in indigenous art. The Lockhart River Art Gang got things going in the 90s, earning an international reputation for exciting art, contemporary but inspired by tradition. It challenged the art scene to look more broadly than the better known dot paintings and “x-ray animal” images that have been “hot” items overseas for years.
Now the Lockhart River Art Centre continues that work, encouraging new and established artists to show us what they can do.
There’s plenty of inspiration in the country around Lockhart River. Iron Range National Park is home to creatures that occur nowhere else on earth. The coastal areas are stunning and the area is full of places of great significance to the clans who live here.
Lockhart began life as a church mission. It moved a couple of times in the 20th century, notably around WW2. The town’s airport was built by the military then and was an important base during the Battle of the Coral Sea.These days, regular air services use the strip, so you can dodge the 800 bumpy kilometres of road from Cairns if you want. In the wet, you can only get here by air or sea. The roads can be closed for months.
Patrick Butcher is one of the artists working at the Art Centre. And he’s one of the original Art Gang members. He’s a painter and print-maker, his works on show in Australia and overseas.
Listen to Patrick talk about living and making art in Lockhart River.
Peter Neal moved to Lockhart from Victoria in 2008 to become manager of the Art Centre.