PERTH – Placing the canvas on the ground and suspending the balloons from a frame above, he shoots them, sending paint and fragments of plastic flying onto the canvas.
“To create a full piece I would probably shoot about 30 balloons of different colours to create different layers and textures in the background,” Kickett told ABC Radio Perth’s Christine Layton.
The technique isn’t just an artistic choice, it’s symbolic.
“The rifle came from the idea of using something designed to kill, to create. It’s completely the opposite of what it is designed for,” he said.
In his work with exploding paint, the Ballardong Noongar artist is commenting on the 1905 Aborigines Act in Western Australia that gave the state government power over every aspect of Indigenous people’s lives, including creating a curfew that required them to leave Perth CBD by 6pm.
“It’s all representational. The gun representing the government, the bullet representing the 1905 act and the balloon representing our culture, our language and our livelihood,” Kickett said.
“It’s just representative of that destruction, the people don’t fully realise it has had.”
In a recent work, Curfew, for which Kickett won the Aboriginal Artist Award at the Minnawarra Art Awards in Armadale, he tells the story of the prohibited area, which barred Aboriginal people from entering the Perth CBD without a written permit, and banned them entirely between 6pm and 6am.
The prohibited area wasn’t removed until 1954.
Arrested at the fish-and-chip shop
Kickett says creating art allows him to tell the stories of what happened to his family when this legislation was in place, including the time his grandparents wanted to buy fish and chips for dinner.
“At the time, sometimes the store owners didn’t want to serve the adults, but they would serve the kids,” he said.
“My dad was a little boy and my auntie, they were in the fish-and-chip shop, waiting for their fish and chips, and my Nanna and Grandpa were outside waiting.
“It was about two minutes to six and that’s when a police officer told my pop to get out of town.
“Pop said, ‘Well, we have got two minutes, my fish and chips will be ready in a minute and then we will be gone’. But it wasn’t good enough for the police officer.”
He said when the police officer grabbed his grandfather to take him to the lock-up, he punched the officer in retaliation — but he was fortunate at his trial.
“When they were in the courthouse, the magistrate had the case pleaded to him by the police officer and then proceeded to say: ‘I don’t believe it’s in the character of Mr Kickett to do this. I’ve got a lot of sheep that need shearing and he is my best shearer’.
“He ended up getting released which is a very good ending to that story, but very rare.”
That didn’t happen
Kickett, 35, started his career as a boilermaker but switched to art a few years ago.
“I had kind of had enough of it, I think,” he said.
“My situation in life changed where I could make that transition to art. Art was something I always did.”
It’s allowed him to shine a light on parts of the nation’s history that many people still do not know about it.
“In the trade, I would always be asked about our stories and our history, and I would tell them the stories and they would just say, ‘Oh, that never happened’,” he said.
“When I put it into an artwork, they couldn’t dismiss a tangible object.”
As well as painting, Kickett has also been commissioned to do several large-scale murals around Perth, and also uses drone photography to create aerial landscape works of parts of country that he has a connection to.
“I think art can be very powerful,. It makes people think completely outside the box. I’ve seen it personally where an artwork has touched someone to the point where they are in tears.” He said.