NOONGAR artist Philip Hansen, who learnt to paint on paperbark, was in Midland last week to check out his South West landscape that is wrapped around an nbn box on the corner of The Avenue and Keane Street.
Hansen was born in Katanning but lived in Wagin before he was taken away to the Wandering Mission.
He returned to his parents Felix Hansen and Marjorie (nee Wallam) when he was about 15-years old and they moved to Allawah Grove settlement in South Guildford.
The men used to go and gather bark from the paperbark trees around the swamps and bring them back to the old women sitting there and the teenagers.
His mother encouraged him to start painting on the bark.
Hansen said learning how to paint on rough surfaces first meant his hand reflexes were smooth.
“After paperbark I started on masonite and then mum went and bought two canvases for me – not like they are now already pre-made,’’ he said.
“Dad went and got a piece of old canvas from Midland Railway Workshops – it was like a tarpaulin but it was canvas.
“He didn’t know the difference – I didn’t know either. Anyway I started painting on that and from there went on and on and on.
“I can’t live without doing my art - I’ve got to be doing art.’’
Aboriginal artist King Wally played a big role in his life.
“How to be a man, you know man things. Nothing to do with art but how to act like a man.
“How to respect – the main thing that came out of his mouth was you don’t respect your elders you don’t respect yourself.
“That’s why I gotta respect everybody – poor people, the old people, good people – I even respect ratbags sometimes.’’
A kangaroo or an Aboriginal symbol is on each of his paintings.
“You see kangaroos in all my paintings.
“To me they’re not kangaroos they are the black man - black family.
“You paint blackfellas on paintings these days and they don’t buy them so I twist it around the other way and paint black kangaroos and they buy the black kangaroos but most of them won’t buy the black man.’’
Hansen get ideas for his paintings via an intuitive process.
“If I see something on TV or travelling well I don’t need a camera I’ve got a camera in my head.
As soon as I sit down, as soon as I put that paint brush in my hand it comes to me what I want to do.
“Then I go into my own little world.’’
Sometimes this intense focus leads to frustration from his wife Beverley Woods.
He jokes it sometimes leads her to chastise him about drinking his tea before it gets cold.
When he lived in the area he worked at the shire and the Midland abattoir and other jobs as the couple had three children.
As well as featuring in the Swan Street Gallery Hansen’s artwork is part of the City’ of Swan’s art collection by local Noongar artists along with Norma MacDonald and Jeanette Garlett who have through their artworks expressed their familial connections to Midland.
Swan Street Gallery is a local arts initiative supported by the City of Swan and funded by nbn’s Rapt program.