Multidisciplinary Artist Jan Baljagil Griffiths finds Inspiration in Family and Tradition

The artist Jan Baljagil Griffiths (left) with her mother, Peggy Griffiths

Country, culture and family are woven through the work of this multidisciplinary artist.

In 2018, Miriwoong artist Jan Baljagil Griffiths was going through a difficult period after the death of her father, renowned painter Alan Griffiths, when her mother, Peggy, also a respected artist, shared a family story. “She told me about my grandmother who, as a young girl, had seen a station manager and tracker and, frightened, hid in the lily pads,’’ says Griffiths.

She began to explore the narrative through painting then in ceramics, poetry and textiles – developing a singular idea and expressing it in various ways is part of her process. “It makes me push myself to work in different mediums,’’ she says.

Her art retains an important connection to the traditions of the Miriwoong people in the Kimberley, near Kununurra. The Australian boab, unique to the region, inspired Griffiths’ latest work, Tree of Knowledge. The four metre-high ochre-on-paper work is surrounded by hand-painted ceramic seed pods, some with the skin names of the artist’s female ancestors. “The boab holds stories and knowledge and survival. I can still see [my ancestors] underneath the tree and either lying down or singing and laughing.”

The piece took a year to complete and was created under the mentorship of her mother as part of the Country Road + NGV My Country First Nations Commissions for the National Gallery of Victoria (showing until 4 August). Both women work at the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts centre in Kununurra. “She’s handing down language and tradition,” Griffiths says of her mum. “Art is within each and every one of us.”

Tree of Knowledge (2024) by Jan Baljagil Griffiths


Finalist in the 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards; finalist in the 2020 Cultural Adornment and Wearable Art, National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

What the experts say

“Jan Baljagil Griffiths’ History Beneath the Beauty (2022) maintains her grandmother’s story and connection to Country. The finely sculpted ceramic flowers float upon a riot of pattern and repetition, ready to obscure and protect.” – Claire Grant, Arts Hub

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SEE ALSO: The Devil Is in the Detail of Artist Teo Treloar's Drawings

Image credit: Michael Jalaru Torres

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