There are many great pleasures working at Kate Owen Gallery, but none gives me more joy than meeting the artists and hearing their stories. When Tony Sorby arrives with his latest body of work, you’re greeted with a smile and sense of joy that lights up a room.
A powerful optimism which I believe reverberates through his art with its graphic quality, a technique which may have originated from his mastery of marquetry as a young man.
Tony Sorby stands before you as a proud Kamilaroi man. The Kamilaroi Nation is one of the largest Indigenous Nations in Australia. Kamilaroi country stretches from as far as the Hunter Valley in NSW through to Nindigully in QLD and as far west as the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran in NSW, sweeping across the Liverpool Plains.
For generations, government policies attempted to sever the Kamilaroi people’s cultural connection to family and country, and Tony Sorby stands as a walking history of the great upheavals that shook the community during the twentieth century.
Spending time with Tony, you hear snippets of tales from his early life, a story known all too well for the Koori community of the East Coast but perhaps still confronting for people who have not lived it; mission life, orphanages, in and out of foster homes and institutions, run ins with the police. A story that has been told before that usually leaves audiences feeling paralysed with despair.
But Tony uses his talents to lift people up. He’s able to tell his personal story in a manner that always brings audiences together; to reflect on the hurt we cause one another but also the healing that can take place and let us rise above it all.
Tony’s art, much like the man himself, has an optimistic approach. It tells of walking in the footsteps of his ancestors; returning to country and learning of his culture and identity. Seeking inspiration from the land, creeks and rivers. He paints what has brought so much comfort and happiness to his own life.
His journey tracks are alive with history, historical and personal stories.
His art is a powerful statement of survival and resilience.
Tony Sorby’s art has continued to develop and we are proud to showcase this exquisite new body of work in our Charcoal Gallery – the first of what I hope will be many solo shows.
ONLINE EXHIBITION will be available from Thursday 9 Februrary