Alick Seriba Tipoti
Meet the maker - Alick Tipoti
Born in 1975 on Waiben Island, Alick Tipoti became interested in art from an early age.
In 1994 he was awarded a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Canberra School of Art.
His art draws on traditional Torres Strait religious stories and features events from the past, when fighting was glorified and warriors enjoyed the esteem of their people.
Legendary heroes appear along with weapons of war, dhari headdresses, masks, drums and other artefacts associated with ritual dance and ceremony.
Excerpts from an interview with Alick Tipoti by the National Museum of Australia, 8 December 2005.
NMA: Do you want to tell us a little about where you were born?
AT: I was born here on Thursday Island in 1975. I am from Badu, my parents are from Badu and I grew up on Badu Island. I think I got recognition as an artist or as a person who could draw, in grade four or five I think, when my classmates sort of started realising that I was the drawer in the class.
NMA: So was your dad or your mother artistic?
AT: Yep, my dad he was an artist.
NMA: So you went to school on Badu, you went to primary school on Badu.
AT: Primary school on Badu yep, then I moved here to TI for high school.
NMA: So can you describe your childhood growing up on Badu Island like what did you used to do when you were a small boy?
AT: I used to do a lot of things that I remember like artistic things especially when I started getting into art. Things like collecting tubes, of big truck, tractor things, wheels, the tubes to make cowboy belts and steel guns of shops and esky foam, speed boats, dinghy's and bow and arrows and sword, you know that ninja sort of stuff that's from all the videos we used to watch.
I always drew you know on the back of my books and when I came to high school I did art as a subject from grade 8 until grade 11, then I started grade 12, then the TAFE College opened up here and there was an art course, then I just crossed over and I didn't graduate from school.
NMA: So where do you draw all your inspiration from for all of these prints?
AT: Well its interesting cos when I think back I don't know what sort of art I would have done if I didn't record stories and you know old legends, I could have been doing I don't know abstract or something.
NMA: So you love sitting down with them old people and listening to their yarns?
AT: Oh yeah, ancient sort of history. I like things before, before clothes were introduced, you know before European anything was introduced. I love that time before all of the, we call it in language inarapuna, a kind of darkness.
NMA: Cos you see some of your prints and they are like warriors and they are just these huge big black men and they're just scary in their own right, but still spectacular to look at.
AT: Yeah, I think I have only done one print I think it was at uni in Canberra, at the Canberra School of Art, that I did a drawing of, not a drawing, a print of a person with a material, like a calico or something. That was the only one. I never did a print like you know to exhibit with someone with a shirt on or something. Cos I'm just really interested in that time and era like back then, back in the days.
NMA: All the traditions and how they've come through.
AT: You see my father doesn't speak English. And that's how I got to learn language properly.
NMA: So what kind of influences do you draw on in more modern times? I know you reflect a lot on the historical stuff that's coming through your artwork. Is there anything that you're bringing into it that is more modern, like more contemporary? The linocut themselves are very contemporary.
AT: The technique is contemporary.
NMA: But still the carving is traditional.
AT: The carving cos it's the same principle, same sort of style of art in a way cos I mean I studied heaps of artefacts. I went to England. In Cambridge I looked at artefacts, I did my research on artefacts, on Torres Strait artefacts and even pacific artefacts like from all over the pacific and yeah designs, those designs are really cos they are carving, this technique is like it feels the same obviously, it feels same in a way and I don't know I just got into it and got carried away with it I guess.
NMA: I know you drew a lot of these children's books as well and the illustrations in them are very, very different to your linocuts and to your prints. Does this draw on from when you were a schoolboy and you used to draw on the back of your pads?
AT: Well no, this, I don't know why I came up with this idea, I just wanted to target the youth, you know primary school, I guess, cos I felt that all my lino prints or my art today is based on language and dance. Anything to do with in the past. And I thought that this was a big part of, yeah, language is a big part of my art. I thought, if I am to get younger people to, say, pronounce the titles of my work, with the stories behind it, the words that come with it properly, I'll start them off with nursery rhymes to get them interested first. Then I'll bring out something big, you know, with full on language, cos when the stories are recorded in language I translate it like in language, like document it and then I translate it to English.
NMA: So what's your favourite print that you've done or your favourite works that you've done?
AT: The favourite work is yet to come. I've did some sketches for my next lino print and I've planned it more cos this one here I sort of planned it but you know how you learn sort of as you go along, I know exactly what to do on my next one, it's going to be a bigger piece.
NMA: So this is the biggest one you've done?
AT: This is the biggest one I've done.
NMA: How big is it?
AT: I think it's a metre by 2 metres. And the next one I am looking at well it depends on the space that I'm gonna look have a look in Cairns with the printing studio. I'm looking at maybe 3 to 4 metres in length, maybe a metre in height or width.