Johnathon World Peace Bush is a Tiwi multidisciplinary artist whose practice advocates his strong social and political views in combination with his cultural heritage. Working predominantly in paint, his works are unflinching reimaginings of scenes from Australia's colonial past in hope of an egalitarian future.Read More
Bush grew up in Andranganoo country (Goose Creek) on the eastern side of Melville Island in Northern Territory, Australia. His father was born in Borroloola on the mainland, whereas his mother is from Milikapiti, Melville, in the Tiwi Islands.
For many years, Bush worked as a stockman in Borroloola, herding sheep and horses. He returned to Milikapiti to be with his mother's family and daughter, where he discovered painting, after encouragement from his brother, artist Kenny Brown. Bush started working at the Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association in 2015, which launched his professional career.
Bush lives and works in Milikapiti, Tiwi Islands.
With varied subject matter that ranges from depictions of atrocities against indigenous populations to Catholic figureheads, Bush fuses figuration with a style akin to jilamara or Tiwi body paint design. Using a consistently ochre palette, he uses natural paints in the three colours of Tiwi land — kurrujupuni (white), arrikininga (yellow) and yarringa (red).__
In 2021, Bush's work was featured in TIWI at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Centred on the artistic output of the original inhabitants of Melville and Bathurst Islands, the exhibition comprised 153 works from the gallery's collection, 130 historical objects and contemporary pieces from across Australia.
Bush's Ngirimimpi (2017) portrayed the Tiwi creation story of Purrukuparli, or the arrival of death and the first ever pukumani (mourning) ceremony, which is a principal tenet of Tiwi culture. His large-scale ochre canvas depicts the primordial figures embracing amidst a heavily-patterned jilamara background, its title meaning 'family'.
In 2022, Bush created a series of unique paintings, textiles and a video performance for Jilamara Arts and Crafts' presentation at the Melbourne Art Fair. The large canvases featured in The Last Supper and the Big Breakfast were principally inspired by the Catholic mission on Bathurst Island in 1911, depicting religious figureheads, as in Pope Sixtus, and reimagined versions of anthropological images of Tiwi people, as in Yoyi (dance) (both 2021).
In addition, Bush's screenprint on hanky linen World Peace Tiwi Treaty (2022) combined text and jilamara style with dining chairs, petitioning for peace for the world and Tiwi alike.
Everything that came before makes the present
In 2023, Bush presented his first institutional solo exhibition at Linden New Art, Melbourne. Titled Everything that came before makes the present, the exhibition brought together 15 major works reflecting Bush's interest in the relationships between religion, colonialism, and Indigeneity. Abstract portraits executed in Bush's characteristic style with natural ochres depicted figures such as King Charles and Mona Lisa (both 2022).
The exhibition was accompanied by a new publication of the same title, with written contributions by the artist, Dr Vincent Alessi, and Will Heathcote.
Awards and Accolades
Johnathon World Peace Bush is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. He was a finalist in the 2023 Sir John Sulman Prize awarded by the Art Gallery of New South Wales for his large-scale natural pigment painting, Adam and his dad.
In 2023, Bush was also a finalist for the King & Wood Mallesons First Nations Art Award; the 61st Fisher's Ghost Art Award; and the Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art.
In 2023, Bush was announced as a participating artist in Country Road + NGV First Nations Commissions: My Country, a biennial mentorship and exhibition programme pairing Australian First Nations artists and designers with industry mentors. Bush is partnered with Tiwi artist Pedro Wonaeamirri. The programme culminates in an exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne, scheduled to open in March 2024.
Johnathon World Peace Bush has been the subject of both solo exhibition and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include: Everything that came before makes the present, Linden New Art, Melbourne (2023); The Last Supper and The Big Breakfast, Jilamara Arts and Crafts, Melbourne Art Fair (2022).
Group exhibitions include: ORBIT, THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne (2023); WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2022); Retribution: What Happens Next?, Northern Centre for Contempoary Art, Darwin (2022); 15 Artists 2022, Redcliffe Art Gallery, Moreton Bay, Queensland (2022); UN/LEARNING AUSTRALIA, Artspace, Sydney and Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) (2021); Tiwi Artists, Tiwi Papers, Tarnanthi at Art Gallery South Australia, Adelaide (2021); TIWI, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2020).
Bush's works have also been presented at international art fairs including The Armory Show, New York (2023) and Melbourne Art Fair (2022).
Bush's works are held in significant collections across Australia, including at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, and University of Melbourne, among others.
His work is also in the collection of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the only museum outside Australia dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Johnathon World Peace Bush is represented by THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne.
Annie Curtis | Ocula | 2023