Regina Wilson / Ngan’gikurrungurr people / Australia b.1948 / Syaw (Fish net) 2004 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 200 x 210.5cm / Purchased 2004. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Regina Pilawuk Wilson/Licensed by Copyright Agency

Regina Wilson
Syaw (Fish net) 2004

On Display: GOMA, Gallery 3.5

A syaw is a hand-held, oval-shaped scoop net used to catch prawns and small fish in the waterways surrounding Peppimenarti. Though the shape of the net has changed little over generations, contemporary versions made for sale are often highly coloured. Vibrant colours are central to Regina Wilson’s painting, and so too are the colours of her country.

Syaw (Fish net) 2004 is painted in clear citrus tones, and lines of colour mirror the structure of the traditional string net. This painting is not a traditional landscape; however, through a succession of textures and illusions, the painting resembles an aerial view of country and sunlit water. As Kathleen Brown has commented: ‘Syaw fish net becomes syaw design, a representation imbued still with the rhythmic motion of its travel through water’.1


1. Kathleen Brown, Awa Yedi i Falmi Warrim Pek Durrimu: May 30 2003, Peppimenarti Community, Peppimenarti Community Council and Karen Brown Gallery, Peppimenarti, NT, 2003, p.5.

Regina Wilson, a master weaver, is a Ngan’gikurrungurr woman who has lived mostly in Peppimenarti, a settlement situated amid the wetlands and floodplains of the Daly River region, south-west of Darwin in the Northern Territory.

In her weaving work, Wilson loops, knots, plaits and coils the fresh new growth of merepen (sand palm), yerrgi (pandanus palm) and pinbin vine (bush vine), infusing them with rich colour from freshly dug roots and corms, or flowers and berries gathered from native plants. She consistently experiments with colour, structure and texture to enliven her weaving practice.

Following a series of painting workshops conducted in Peppimenarti in 2000 by Darwin gallerist Karen Brown, Wilson took a bold new direction, successfully moving from weaving to painting. She soon gained recognition for her paintings on canvas, winning the general painting award in the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Significantly, Wilson’s shift to painting has inspired an art movement in the Daly River region.