Gavin Wanganeen is an Australian Football League (AFL) legend, acclaimed contemporary Indigenous artist and Aboriginal activist.
THE AFL LEGEND
Two-time Premiership winner, member of the AFL Hall of Fame and Brownlow medalist, Gavin Wanganeen is reputed as one of the best to ever play the game.
Gavin’s AFL career spanned 300 senior games at the Essendon and Port Adelaide Football Clubs, earning him countless accolades, including the dedication of a grandstand at Adelaide Oval in 2015, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the game.
Gavin blazed a trail as the first Indigenous player to receive a Brownlow medal and reach 300 games. Having retired from the AFL over a decade ago, he continues to inspire and break new ground through his work as a contemporary Indigenous artist.
Gavin was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and is a descendent of the Kokatha people of the Western Desert in South Australia. The Kokatha people hold the Tjukupa (lore) and have a strong connection to country, the night sky and stories in the stars – a source of inspiration for Gavin’s paintings.
Growing up, Gavin spent time on South Australia’s west coast where his maternal great-grandfather, Dick Davey, was a respected leader of the people of Koonibba Mission and the community at large. Davey was one of the first Indigenous people to be “permitted” to purchase land, and was a talented footballer, playing for the Koonibba Football Club, today recognised as the country’s oldest surviving Aboriginal football club.
From a young age, Gavin embraced a love of colour and storytelling through art. Yet it wasn’t until his twenties, through a friendly competition with his Indigenous Port Adelaide Football Club teammates to produce an artwork from their respective regions, that Gavin made the life changing decision to start painting.
Gavin began exploring his ancestral links on canvas, recreating memories and capturing the beauty of the Australian outback. Today Gavin’s astonishing natural talent continues to blossom, attracting national attention and acclaim and firmly establishing him as a contemporary Indigenous artist to watch.
Gavin’s first solo exhibition in 2016 was inspired by a camping trip with his wife Pippa on Wardang Island, where he saw a shooting star. The experience had a profound effect on him, connecting him to his Kokatha ancestors and inspiring him to further explore this spiritual relationship through art.
Each exhibition showcased a series of Gavin’s original acrylic on canvas paintings
April 2018, Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide, South Australia
GAVIN WANGANEEN THE POWER OF FOUR
July 2017, The Henry Austin, Adelaide, South Australia
GAVIN WANGANEEN: exhibition of works
May 2017, Pullman Ritz Carlton, Shanghai, China
GAVIN WANGANEEN: solo exhibition
November 2016, Willunga Gallery, Hardy’s Tintara Winery, McLaren Vale, South Australia
GAVIN WANGANEEN: SHOOTING STAR KILIPI PUNKANAI
May 2016, Koori Heritage Trust, Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria
August 2018, Fox Gordon Cellar Door, Adelaide, South Australia
ART ON PARADE
April-May 2018, contemporary art trail featuring works by local artists, Adelaide, South Australia
RENEWAL SA CHRISTMAS TREE RIVERBANK PROJECT
December 2017, Public Art Installation, Adelaide, South Australia
OUR MOB EXHIBITION & TARNANTHI ART FAIR
October 2017, Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
OUR MOB EXHIBITION: PORT AUGUSTA
October 2015, Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, held in partnership with Port Augusta City Council
SPECIAL PROJECTS: THE INTERSECTION OF SPORT AND ART
AFL SIR DOUG NICHOLLS ROUND 2016-2018
Designed the Sherrin football used during the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round, May 2018
Designed the Sherrin football used during the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round, May 2017
Designed the AFL guernsey worn by members of the Essendon Football Club during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, May 2016
Designed a unique AFL guernsey presented to Premier Li Keqiang of the People’s Republic of China on behalf of the Port Adelaide Football Club, entitled “Cultural Exchange,” March 2017
Victor Harbour Rotary Art Fair. Highly Commended; Star Dreaming, Grey. January 2017
Gavin is devoted to giving back to community through his role as ambassador for Power Community Programs with the Port Adelaide Football Club and Deadly Choices, an initiative run by Aboriginal Health. He travels to remote Aboriginal communities, predominantly in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjattjara (APY) Lands in north-west South Australia, encouraging positive life choices through sport, education, culture and community.
Gavin is also an ambassador for the AFL’s Aboriginal youth football team, the Boomerangs, and travelled with the group to China in 2016.
In addition, the Gavin Wanganeen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholarship at the University of South Australia was established in 2005 to enable members of these communities to continue their education and, in turn, become role models themselves.
“Football has not only provided me with wonderful opportunities, it’s also instilled a strong sense of achievement and an understanding that role models can make a real difference to people’s lives. I believe Indigenous kids need a range of role models. Yes sport plays an important role, but they also need exposure to leaders from a range of vocations: teachers, business leaders, medical professionals, researchers and artists.” – Gavin Wanganeen
FROM THE ARTIST
“My mother was part of the Stolen Generation, taken from her parents when she was a young girl.
To learn about that, and come to terms with it, is a complex and powerful process.
I began painting ten years ago as a means of bringing me back to my culture. On the canvas, I am connecting with my heritage; the history of my family, my country and my people.
I really enjoy experimenting with colour and developing my own unique style.”