The colours of the Aboriginal flag come to life through art

As Featured in the National Indigenous Times

Dave Sands – Aboriginal Boxing Legend by Miriam Cabello

“I want people to listen deeply to the individuals I paint and have a conversation with the spirit in the paintings”

It was in the hot, honest heat of Uluru that Miriam saw the linkage of colour, texture and voice for her next series of paintings. The day of her visit she spent four hours trekking the circumference of this magnificent and sacred sight paying attention to the shifting luminous colours and intricate textures all around. It was during one of her rest stops, protected under the shade of the rock, that inspiration emerged. She wanted to tell the powerful stories of Aboriginal Australian boxing legends Dave Sands, Ron Richards, Lionel Rose and Tony Mundine. In Miriam’s talented hands, paint is an emotive medium and an ideal manifestation of the profound journeys of these individuals. “These stories should not be lost but remembered and treasured,” states the artist.

Miriam’s own history can attest to this need to share and highlight such stories. “In 1971, my parents fled the impending coup and oppressive dictatorship of Chile. They arrived in Australia with just 50 cents, high hopes, tenacity and a longing for delicious avocados. I was four.” At an early age this instilled in Miriam a deep understanding of how social injustice can impact on your life. This and the unrelenting support of her mum, Carmen, guided her in every step of her career and creative endeavours. When she finally had the opportunity to spend more time with her true companion, oil painting, she drew on all the powerful memories and images of racial struggles throughout history. In particular the terrible hardships endured by Aboriginal’s in Australia and the powerful images coming from the Unite States capturing the atrocities endured by African Americans.

These amazing stories also add further texture to her body of work entitled White Rope. The core creative narrative of these paintings explores sport, struggle, social injustice and achievement. Miriam’s White Rope theme has been organically developing over 20 years. She experienced her first live boxing match at the inquiring age of 20 where she witnessed a bout between an African American and Anglo Saxon. That night she saw a match that resonated much deeper then a fight between two athletic opponents, it became ‘her’ metaphor for the struggle of oppressed people. “All I saw was bruising, blood mixed with sweat, fatigue, resilience and punishment. Those photos inspired my White Rope paintings.”

Since launching her White Rope series international recognition has followed. The first painting from the series was a winner at the Florence Biennale, Italy, where art legend Christo presented the award. Further paintings from the series have been awarded in the: 24th Manhattan Arts International, New York; National Art Museum of Sport, Indianapolis, USA and; Artoteque, Global Art Annual, London.

Propelled by this international acknowledgement, Miriam set off to New York to promote the series. During her visit she was fortunate enough to meet Bruce Silverglade, Director of Gleason’s Gym, Brooklyn, New York. The very same gym where lauded boxing legend Muhammad Ali trained. On viewing her award winning paintings the Director, Bruce Silverglade invited her to exhibit and participate in the DUMBO Arts festival 2011. It is Brooklyn’s preeminent Arts Festival attracting over 200,000 visitors over 3 days. It is at this prestigious festival that Miriam will internationally debut her painting series ‘Aboriginal Australian Boxing Legends’.

She is currently completing the series and has received overwhelming feedback about the potential for greater cultural exchange and shared knowledge. This promotion of education and sharing these legends history is a central theme of the project. Anchoring the thematic potency of the exhibition is a set of beautifully painted triptychs. The artworks portray both Dave Sands and Ron Richards in three emotive, colour interpretations that reference the Aboriginal Flag. Drawing from the history of the flag and what the colours represent is fundamental to Miriam’s creative process. Each painting is imbued with an individual colour palette reflecting the richness of ochre earth, golden sun and deep tones of layered pigment. For the series of triptychs she has chosen to paint each legend three times in the same pose. This enables personification of the flags three colours and provides her the opportunity to express three different emotions. She first explored this combination of portraiture and the Aboriginal Flag in her late teens and now revisits it for this exciting new exhibition.

In the new paintings you can see how this idea has evolved through her creative process. It provides her with immense freedom to express distinct feelings. Paintings are individual and unlike a screen print or a photo printed three times no painting is the same. The artist can change the mood and message of a work by turning the brush and redefining the look in the subject’s eyes. It is in this sensory space that Miriam Cabello’s talent shines through and immerses the viewer. Looking eye to eye with these amazing portraits is quite an enchanting experience and you can feel their gaze. Each colour emits a different emotional temperature and the expression in each face, and most importantly, each set of eyes is unique. This is where the conversation and exchange begins.

Miriam plans to continue this exchange by expanding the series of paintings to include additional histories from other Aboriginal boxing legends. She is actively researching the archives of the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame and is also considering continuing the story with the next generation. Her ‘White Rope – A History of Australian Aboriginal Boxers’ will be on preview in Sydney during August. Then come September it will be shipped off to New York to participate in the DUMBO Arts Festival that runs from 23 to 25 of September.

On her return to Australia she will start her next set of paintings scheduled to debut during NAIDOC Week 2012. For this exhibition she is actively seeking partners to make it as dynamic and interactive as possible. The show will exhibit her new boxing legends and a selection of commissioned paintings. Individuals interested in commissioning paintings can contact Miriam Cabello directly via her website at


About mlcgallery

Designer, communicator and curious commentator on the value and exploitation of colour to communicate thought, fears, agenda, boundedness, beauty and bounty.
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