The spectacular printmaking of Torres Strait Island artist Dennis Nona is described by the Australian critic Nicholas Rothwell as 'the most intriguing work to be seen in the northern capital.' (referring to Darwin for Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award in 2005). Inspired by the rich traditions of finely-detailed local carving, his work is a celebration of this art form, in finely-chiseled lines that express the powerful materiality that comes from the skill of the beautifully handmade.
Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Australia, says that Nona’s work represents a trend by artists to explore the physicality of the printmaking process, instead of the instant art making of digital processes. He comments:
'He (Nona) sits there with a lot of lino and with a very sharp little chisel and cuts out those incredibly detailed little lines and gouge marks… That’s really taking it back to processes of (German Renaissance artist) Albrecht Durer, a simple technique that makes complex images.'
Nona applies this in linocut, creating captivating images of Dreamtime sagas that evoke the romance of seafaring and survival in the Torres Strait.
The artist pioneered a style of visual narrative for Torres Strait Islander art in the late 1980s that has influenced a whole generation of islander artists.
Nona was born in 1973 on Badu Island in the Torres Strait and learnt story-telling and ceremony from his family. His work has been presented in many international exhibitions including the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award and the Islands in the Sun exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.