Damien Shen

NAIDOC Week 2024: Keep the Fire Burning

4 July – 3 August

Opening: Thursday 11 July, 6-8pm

Damien Shen is a South Australian man of Ngarrindjeri (Aboriginal) and Chinese descent. As an artist he draws on both of these powerful cultural influences to create works of intense personal meaning. 


Shen’s first exhibition of new work since the COVID-19 global pandemic began leans directly into the memories of childhood joy. Growing up, Shen found solace in the fantastical world of animation, where he was able to escape from the difficulties of reality and enter a realm where anything was possible. Cartoons were more than just a form of entertainment for him, they were a source of comfort and inspiration, providing a window into a world of wonder and imagination.


The foundation of each painting is the powerful symbolism of the Kaurna shield. This ancestral object represents the strength and resilience of his ancestors, embodying the spirit of generations of warriors and hunters. Shen explores the intersection between his cultural heritage, juxtaposed with childhood experiences, creating a fusion of the traditional and the personal. Through this work, Shen explores the complexities and contradictions of identity and memory. By painting his own experiences onto these ancestral objects, he hopes to create a visual representation of the tension between the past and the present, and to pay homage to the enduring wisdom and traditions of his people.”


This series of shield works comes after James Tylor taught Shen and his son to cut shields from trees, marking the bark that will leave them as scar trees. These new works invite the audience to think about their own childhood memories and relationships and to evoke a sense of nostalgia, inviting viewers to reflect on their own experiences of childhood, imagination, and joy.






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