Alec Baker was the first senior desert man to begin painting at Iwantja Arts in far north South Australia in the early 2000s, which was, at that stage, still primarily a craft centre where women made beads, batiks and woven baskets. A career stockman and master of his country, Baker commenced painting, inspired to paint the lessons and stories of his country to educate the future generations destined to look after Pitjantjatjara country. Working daily at Iwantja with his fellow friends, stockmen and artists, Whiskey Tjukangku and Peter Mungkuri, the senior men still talk daily about their memories of their droving days, painting the stories of their lives and knowledge of the country on their canvases.
“We’ve been teaching people the stories we have, and about our culture, and knowledge from our stockmen days – about riding horses and country. Sometimes we think who’s going to run this place when we go away? They need to learn the lessons about country, and be strong to look after this place. I’m thinking when I making my paintings, how to make him a good painting, a strong one. Sometimes I’m thinking about the colours, sometimes I’m just thinking from my memory all the country I’ve been at, all the stories I have.”
Passing down the traditions of his people is integral to Alec Baker’s artistic practice; however the artist is wary of revealing sacred knowledge and does not paint Tjukurpas (dreamings). Instead, the artist paints the patterns of his country that come from his mind and memory, developing his own unique visual language, taking his art from not only storytelling – but into the realm of a truly creative and innovative contemporary Indigenous art practice.
Baker’s successes are continuing to grow as his practice matures, the artist was a finalist in the 2014 38th Alice Prize – National Award for Contemporary Art, and a finalist in the 2016 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, where his work was acquired by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. He was also a finalist in the 2016 Len Fox Painting Award at the Castlemaine Art Museum, Victoria.
Working in a monochromatic palette for the first time, Baker’s wonderfully delicate and precise hand was highlighted in Alcaston Gallery’s 2016 exhibition Mayatja Pulka: Big Boss, which featured a significant body of work by the artist on paper, alongside the exuberant works of fellow Iwantja artists Tiger Yaltangki and David Frank.
In 2017 Baker featured in the group exhibition 'Artists of the APY Lands' at Alcaston Gallery.
© The Artist, Iwantja Arts and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 2017
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2008 Desert Mob, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
2010 Tjukurpa Pulkatjara, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2011 Sandhill Country: Paintings by Iwantja Artists, Booker Lowe Gallery, Houston, Texas, USA
2011 Desert Mob, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
2013 Our Mob, Anita Chan Lai Ling Gallery, Hong Kong
2013 Harvey Arts Projects, Idaho, United States of America
2014 Viscopy, Boomalli Art Gallery, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
2014 Songlines Project, South Australian Museum, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2014 Aboriginal Art from the Eastern APY Lands, Kelch Gallery, Freiburg, Germany
2015 TARNANTHI – Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Australia
2015 SALT, McCulloch and McCulloch, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
2016 The 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
2016 Mayatja Pulka: Big Boss, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
2016 Nganampa Kililpil – Our Stars, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea, New South Wales, Australia
2017 Artists of the APY Lands, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
2014 Finalist, The 38th Alice Prize: National Contemporary Art Award, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
2016 Finalist, The 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
2016 Finalist, Len Fox Painting Award, Castlemaine Art Museum, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia
2017 Finalist, Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, Adelaide Perry Gallery, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
2017 Finalist, 34th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
2017 Finalist, Hadley’s Art Prize, Hadley’s Orient Hotel, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia