HELEN S. TIERNAN : Storied Country

22 October 2022 - 18 November 2022

A retrospective exhibition of paintings by Helen S. Tiernan as she returns to Victoria.

There is no nature without culture
Songlines are pathways of knowledge that crisscross Country.
If Country holds knowledge, then Country is Clever.

Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator National Museum of Australia, 2021

Tiernan’s painting is informed by her mixed cultural heritage including Irish and Indigenous ancestry and her work references colonial history, including Black/White contact; the experience of women and environmental concerns. Beyond her own points of reference, she draws on art historical sources and the important exhibition Songlines – Tracking the Seven Sisters held at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra; as well as numerous literary texts including Lynne Kelly’s Memory Code; Ian McLean’s Rattling Spears and Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth in Plain View.

In this context, Tiernan’s recent paintings playfully remind us that landscapes are neither innocent or pristine, but rather, cultured spaces; repositories of ancient knowledge and deep memory where, from an Indigenous Australian perspective, they are storied with Songlines and Tjukurrpa and inflected with the moralities arising from mythology that remind us of how values and identities formed.

Exhibition opened by Steve Dimopoulos MP Minister for Creative Industries with introduction to the paintings by Dr Marie Geissler.


View the colour illustrated catalogue with essay by Dr Marie Geissler, Visiting Associate Researcher, University of Wollongong; Associate Researcher, National Museum of Australia, Canberra; author of Dreaming the Land, 2022

Read further about the artist.

Take A Closer Look At… the paintings by Helen S. Tiernan.