WORDS: Lesley Apps | IMAGES: Rachel Cooper Photography
Wiradjuri woman Amanda Hinkelmann’s arts practice is soaring. The Wagga Wagga-based artist’s paintings are so coveted that private commissions for 2023 closed no sooner than they opened.
Amanda’s works continue to garner award nominations, are sought by industry and corporations, and fill exhibition spaces and lounge rooms around the regions. But aside from the accolades and attention the colourful canvases attract, they are also her stories, visceral explorations around connection, Country and experience.
The investment in each piece of artwork is another marker of how far Amanda has come and confirmation it’s where she is meant to be.
Her practice, Because of my Four, is dedicated to her children, the ones who gave Amanda the strength when she needed it most – that saw her create from a place of healing, through past traumas, the brush has been her beacon.
As Issue 12's Acknowledgement of Country artist, a piece to champion Amanda’s work was in order but to do that in the same week a prominent travesty was coursing through the Indigenous community without its mention, would require entering a vacuum that goes against the spirit of truth-telling.
The impact and repercussions of racism is something Amanda finds herself having to process as part of the broader narrative Indigenous Australians are exposed to every day.
“Having four of my own kids, you just worry about the world they are growing up in and whether they are going to have to deal with the same struggles we keep seeing,” says Amanda.
“It shouldn’t always be black voices, always Aboriginal people having to stand up. We will continue to advocate and fight but it shouldn’t be left to us all the time because it’s exhausting. We’re not the ones that are going to make the change, it has to be the whole nation.”
While Amanda holds out hope for broader support in the face of this most recent trauma, in her corner the focus remains on making change one painting, one story, at a time.
“I can’t talk for all mob, I can only talk for myself and my family, but the thing is I paint what’s important to me. It’s not just about painting something that looks nice and matches someone’s couch. I paint because my stories are important, my history is important, and my connection to my family is important, all of those things. That’s the message I’m trying to give, to reinforce the beauty of my culture. The paintings are lovely but they are also very meaningful.”
When Amanda isn’t working telling her own stories, she is helping people to tell theirs.
“Having commissions fill so quickly is really great and reassuring. I love to paint them because I get to know people better and make great connections through that process. They often open up so it can be really personal. I like that I’m trusted to paint something so meaningful for them. I also get to know where the artwork will end up so I feel much more connected to it.”
Connection is at the heart of everything for Amanda, to her culture and Country, her family, to herself, a gravitation that grew stronger and deeper after walking away from an all-consuming career in the education sector.
“My husband said he sees me as a totally different person since I’ve been painting full-time because I’ve been able to work through so many things I simply didn’t have the time to address before.
“It gave me time to heal and reflect on things in my life and made me who I am. I’m just so happy to be honest. I can be a mother and I can be present in people’s lives that matter rather than just being there.”
The change of pace also helped Amanda understand what really is important.
“Being home on Country with my family and really making sure I live my life, not just gloss through it because it looks good for other people.
“As long as I'm painting and keeping the conversation open, raising my children to be good citizens, who respect other people and respect other cultures regardless of where someone has come from, I’m doing my part.”
Amanda Hinkelmann, a Wiradjuri woman, creates contemporary Aboriginal art based on connection, country and experience.