"To see something in the day is different from the night,” says William Brian ‘Badger’ Bates of his artworks gracing Yirranma Place. The Willcania-based Barkandji artist was originally commissioned to create forged steel gates for the entry portico of the Doric-style building before the Paul Ramsay Foundation committed to a second work, a painted artwork ceiling. Now, with both completed, it is clear they are meant to be seen as one.
The three metre-high, three panel gates – blacksmithed by Bates working with Matt Mewburn of Eveleigh Works – illustrate the stories that are critical to the life and world view of the Barkandji people, such as the Seven Sisters, who “look down on us and are called witu witulinja”. The ceiling painting, which appears as a stunning black and white backdrop when looking through the entry, depicts the Emu in the Sky, with the gap between the top of the gates and the ceiling symbolising the transition from day to night, and from earth to sky.
The Foundation was drawn to Bates based on the quality and originality of his art, and his integrity and dedication to community and the environment. His life’s work aligns with the work of the Foundation to break cycles of disadvantage and help strengthen communities, with a particular focus on programs and services targeting Aboriginal communities and youth.
William Brian ‘Badger’ Bates is a Barkandji man, born 1947 in Wilcannia, New South Wales, who lives and works in Wilcannia and Broken Hill. He is a distinguished senior figure and leader of his community of Wilcannia, and a widely recognised and respected activist and advocate for the health of the Darling River. The quality and originality of Bates’s art, and his integrity and dedication to community and the environment, make him a fine choice of artist for the Foundation. The work Bates has dedicated his life to aligns with the work of the Foundation to break cycles of disadvantage and support community-led programs.