At Home: Jim Stanley’s painted past


Jim Stanley’s paintings sing us a quiet song; a cradle song, with a calm and soothing refrain.

Stanley, one of Moree’s most important Kamilaroi artists was born in Top Camp in 1927. Confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident, Stanley is a prolific artist. He paints the past.

Recorded with scientific precision and attention to detail, Stanley recalls the past as watchful spectator. He sits quietly in the firelight watching and remembering–ceremonies, hunting, fishing and his people of Terri Hie Hie.

His paintings are carefully structured and in this organisation, integrity resounds. Divided into portions with symbols placed symmetrically in borders, Stanley paints in a delicate and considered way; pencil lines fan out below marker pen and paint communicating a solidarity and surety of story that bewitches.

The power of Stanley’s work is to dispel the myth of the ‘savage’ constructed by colonial invaders. The viewer sees Aboriginal culture full of immense purpose and well-being: wholesome, sustaining and functional, operating in its socially predictable way. This is Aboriginal culture before the white man trampled in, kicking dirt on campfire coals and breaking apart inherent orderliness.

Stanley’s canvases are shaped by stillness, as if all that has been shaken up, dislodged has finally settled and its deep meaning become visible, filtered through the lens of time.

Jim Stanley’s work offers us emotional reassurance. It’s a significant gift, so let your eyes rest awhile and take it in.

Jim Stanley's paintings sing us a quiet song; a cradle song, with a calm and soothing refrain.

Editor’s note: Jim Stanley is the son of Alexander ‘Digger’ Stanley who served Australia in two World Wars. On his return to Moree he made a significant contribution to Moree’s Aboriginal community and in his honour Top Camp was renamed Stanley Village.

It’s particularly pertinent as we run up to NAIDOC Week, Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond which this year honours all Aboriginal men and women who have fought in defence of country.