Installation view of Deanne Gilson’s <em>Before Joseph Banks, Our Baskets and Plants Held Sacred Knowledge</em> 2022 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.     Image: Sean Fennessy

Deanne Gilson

Deanne Gilson
(Wadawurrung, b. 1967. Lives and works in Ballarat, Victoria)

Dr Deanne Gilson is a Wadawurrung woman of Aboriginal and Australian/English descent with an art practice spanning nearly forty years. After spending her early childhood in Melbourne, Gilson relocated to her ancestral Country around Ballarat at seven years old, where she nurtured a deep appreciation for Indigenous plants, trees and flowers, many of which feature prominently in her work today.

Before Joseph Banks, Our Baskets and Plants Held Sacred Knowledge, 2022, is a series of ten still-life works depicting medicine and healing indigenous plants in baskets that are indicative of traditional woven vessels from around Australia. Painted in a mixture of charcoal, black ochre, fool’s gold (pyrite) and 18ct gold leaf on linen, the works embody both the beauty and resourcefulness of Country and – through the baskets and woven motifs – the important cultural knowledge held and transmitted by women across generations.

‘For me art is ceremony. Ceremony begins the moment I step onto Country and walk’, writes Gilson:

When gathering ochre, plant specimens and saps, multiple visual images that vary according to different seasons and weather conditions fill my head. I use the colours of Country and four specific traditional marks my ancestors used on artefacts such as shields, stones, trees and possum skin cloaks.

Gilson recently completed a PhD at Deakin University, looking at the objectification of Aboriginal women by the male colonial gaze. She has exhibited extensively around Australia, including at the Koorie Heritage Trust, the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Melbourne Museum, White Night, and Melbourne Fashion Week. Her work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Shepparton Art Museum and The Koorie Heritage Trust, The National Gallery of Victoria, The National Wool Museum, Australian Catholic University, City of Wyndham, Manningham Art Gallery, Bundoora Homestead, Deakin University, Federation University, Monash University – RMIT, The Gordon, Trinity College, Ballarat Grammar, Maroondah Art Space, Shepparton Art Museum, Federation University and private collections in Hong Kong, England, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland and the United States.