Colleen’s work pays homage to the significance and use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into her community. Yet underneath the iridescent surface, there is an underlying sense that there is more to this landscape than meets the eye. In keeping with the religious laws, Colleen reveals only a small amount of knowledge to the uninitiated. The esoteric information that is held sacred to her and her people is concealed from the public and layered underneath the common visual narrative, masked by the delicate layered dots of the painting. The many levels of interpretation permit artists to present their art to an often culturally untutored public without compromising its religious nature. Artists talk of two broad levels of interpretation, the “inside” stories which are restricted to those of the appropriate ritual standing, and the “outside” stories which are open to all.
Colleen’s paintings often depict her Grandfather’s country where her family have hunted for many years. As a child she was taught about the seasonal bush medicines and plants that grew there and how to gather them. The elders would teach the importance of looking after country and that the sacred ancestral spirits watch over and protect the animals and plants. Her Mother and Grandmother taught her about bush medicine, a topic that is especially important to Colleen and is expressed within her paintings. The layers of Colleen’s paintings are as detailed and complex as the stories she paints. Her paintings help to keep her culture strong and keep the stories alive to be shared and used to educate current and future generations.
Colleen is one of the original artists in the Utopian batik movement in the 1980’s and has been successfully painting ever since.