Born: Burra Bee Dee Mission, NSW
LANGUAGE GROUP: Kamilaroi
COMMUNITY: Coonabarabran, NSW
Tony Sorby is a descendant of the Kamilaroi people and was born on Burra Bee Dee Mission outside of Coonabarabran, NSW. Coonabarabran sits in Kamilaroi country which covers vast expanses of inland north western NSW and parts of inland Queensland's border country.
Like many children of mixed parentage and in line with the conventional wisdom of the day, Tony was taken from his family as an infant and spent his childhood in various orphanages, foster homes and institutions around the state of NSW. This childhood and early adulthood experience was to have a profound effect on Tony, his approach to life and to his culture. It was only at the age of 12 years that he discovered his aboriginal roots but he was not to re-establish connection with his family until after more than 20 years of separation.
Typical of many Aboriginal people who experienced an unsettled upbringing, life for Tony was tough. He moved from job to job, place to place and spent harrowing periods in detention. Though, meeting him today, one would never know about his trials and traumas. Tony is a man at home with himself and proud of his culture.
Tony's art career was originally sparked by his growing interest in his Aboriginal heritage, leading initially to him formally studying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture. As he grew more engaged and more confident, he began to experiment with different media to express his growing sense of Aboriginal identity, finally settling on paintings as the best way to tell his people's stories.
Today, Tony paints in a confident and distinctive style, is characterised by the bold use of Aboriginal symbols and pays homage to the Aboriginal dot art techniques pioneered by the western desert's Pintupi artists. In his own words:
My paintings represent the Kamilaroi lands. This includes the sacred sites, trees, sandstone caves, escarpments, mountains, hunting tracks, hunting grounds, meeting places and the journey tracks and campsites of the Kamilaroi people. The blue lines coursing through some of my artworks depict water, representing two rivers, the Castlereagh & the Barwon, as well as creeks & billabongs.
Copyright: Geoffrey Henderson, Kate Owen Gallery, 13 May 2020
- Aboriginal Health College of NSW, Little Bay, NSW
Awards and Recognition
1995 Invited to participate in joint Australian and Malaysian Aboriginal Art exhibition by Australian High Commission
1993 Kempsey Shire Art Prize Heritage Award - Merit Award
1993 Australia Council for the Arts - Grant
Member of the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia (AAAA)
Registered with the National Association for the Visual Arts
Previous Member of Boomali Aboriginal Artist Cooperative Ltd.
Previous Member of National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association Inc.
Previous Member of Bowral District Art Society
2016 Journey Tracks - Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Tony Sorby's Kamilaroi Comes to Wingecarribee - Bowral District Art Society, Bowral
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2020 East Coast Matters, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Defining Tradition: the first wave & its disciples, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2011 Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre, Sydney
2008 Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney
2008 Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre, Sydney
2007 Grand Opening Exhibition - Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney
2006 Contemporary Indigenous Expression Exhibition - Primrose Park Gallery, Sydney
2002 Juma Art - Grand Banquet Centre, Ontario, Canada
1995 Invitation exhibition, Universioty of New South Wales, Sydney
1995 Langkawi International Festival of Arts, Malaysia
1994 Australian Craftworks, Sydney
1993 Masterpiece Pictures, Sydney
1993 Anadalou Gallery, Sydney