Flagship building's art reflects locale


Boola Katitjin is Murdoch University’s stunning, architecturally designed and sustainable building featuring state of the art digital teaching and learning technology that’s set to transform the way our students study and interact on campus.

From the earliest planning stages, it was envisaged that the integration of Australian contemporary art throughout the building would be integral to the student experience, adopting a blend of newly commissioned and purchased artworks.

The ten commissioned artworks respond to Boola Katitjin’s overarching narratives which aim to reflect its location, essence and goals. Beginning with Murdoch University’s locale, as a Campus on Country, these commissions needed to reflect both the building’s unique position at the gateway of the Beeliar Wetlands; a place that has been a traditional Indigenous centre of learning for thousands of years.  Boola Katitjin in Noongar language means many facets, or many levels of learning. This name is a great summation of both the contemporary teaching and learning that presently takes place within the building and acknowledges and pays respect to the original custodians of this land and celebrates its rich cultural legacy.

The second overarching narrative which informed many of the artwork commissions is the leading-edge technology embedded throughout the building. With a digital hub featuring a laptop lounge, computer stations and an immersive lab, technology is an integral part of Boola Katitjin’s 19 different learning spaces. This new technology enables a collaborative learning style with a hybridisation of online and face to face learning. Accordingly, most of the art commissioned for Boola Katitjin are digital installations, including interactive artworks.  

The final overarching narrative reflected in many of the art commissions is Boola Katitjin’s focus on mindfulness, and a sense of wellness for all students and staff. This is an important priority for our community, even more so as we return to a post-Covid campus environment. 

Esteemed Noongar artist Christopher Pease has created one of Boola Katitjin’s major art commissions which highlights the spiritual and cultural significance of the land on which our campus occupies.

For his commission, Chris created an ambitious 8-metre-long panoramic quad-tych oil painting titled “Beeliar Boodja Bidi” which depicts the Beeliar Wetlands, on which Murdoch University campus is situated.  The painting will be displayed in various locations throughout campus along with a mammoth 11 linear metres, multi-panelled digital reproduction of the painting now on permanent display in Boola Katitjin’s level 4 learning common. 

The artwork depicts a precolonial, panoramic landscape of the Beeliar Wetlands featuring waterways, native melaleuca trees and orchids, Noongar men, women and children living on Country.

The Wetlands was traditionally a Yorgas (women’s) birthing place. It was also a place of learning where Koolungars (children) were taught. As well as holding freshwater springs for drinking water, the Wetlands also supports a rich ecology of plants and animals, and it was an important hunting ground for the surrounding area.

The series of lakes that run north to south are also part of the creation story of the Wagyl creation serpent and its movement through the Boodjar (land).

Christopher Pease at Boola Katitjin with wife Milly and daughter Georgia


All these subjects are woven into Pease’s composition with the addition of a linear topographical map of the Wetlands area representing the overlay of Western culture upon the traditional Indigenous ways of life. The composition is split into smaller panels and sections. Each section reflecting slight shifts in time. This time shift includes portions of the dreamtime where the Wagyl appears in several sections of the sky. The heavy storm clouds that hang overhead produce the rains that filled the furrows that the body of the Wagyl formed.

Earmarked for display in the building's Welcome Centre Foyer is a commanding digital art commission by Daniel Crooks titled Water Clocks (working title). This artwork is currently being installed on a panoramic digital band that extends around three of the foyer’s internal walls. Through this artwork, Crooks endeavours to address the question of how you capture the essence of time in a physical sense.

Working with the concept ‘water is time, time is physical, time is a volume, and time is a fluid material’, the artwork features an array of imagery filmed on location by the artist during his visits to the Beeliar Wetlands, the Canning and Swan Rivers and along the WA coast. The filmed imagery is both macro and micro, featuring water within the natural world, including tides, waves, river flow and streams, as well as clouds, rain, dew, fog, and steam with a focus on reflection, refraction, and inversion.

All commissioned artists developed their artworks in close association with Murdoch University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group. The group met regularly with the commissioned artists throughout Boola Katitjin’s development. In addition, Noongar community leader Olman Walley provided all commissioned artists with cultural awareness workshops and guidance on the unique history and practices of the region.

Sohan Ariel HAYES, Woolah, Beeliar! The Animated Paintings of Shane Pickett, 2022. Single channel HD video with sound, 18:30 minutes, edition 1 of 5. Commissioned for Boola Katitjin 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Estate of Shane Pickett. 


This cultural guidance was pivotal to the development of a commissioned, digitally animated artwork titled Woolah, Beeliar! by Sohan Ariel-Hayes in association with the estate of late great Noongar artist, Shane Pickett (1957-2010). Woolah, Beeliar! is a 50-minute video depicting a journey across Beeliar Boodjar created through an evocative pairing of Shane Pickett’s iconic paintings of the six Noongar seasons with selected sites across the Beeliar Wetlands and Murdoch University. These sites were rendered through LiDAR imagery consisting of millions of scanned points, which act as a cloud-like medium capable of registering the movement and colour of the gestural lines in Pickett’s paintings. These fragments of Noongar Country are like ultra-detailed dioramas, frozen in time, which are slowly illuminated by the artist’s living spirit. 

Sohan Ariel HAYES, Woolah, Beeliar! The Animated Paintings of Shane Pickett, 2022. Single channel HD video with sound, 18:30 minutes, edition 1 of 5. Commissioned for Boola Katitjin 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Estate of Shane Pickett. 

After a process which took almost three years, Murdoch University Art Curator Mark Stewart is delighted to see these artworks finally come to fruition and installed in the completed building.

“It’s been a privilege to have this incredible opportunity to support and work alongside our commissioned artists to deliver a shared creative vision for Boola Katitjin.

I feel proud and energised by what’s been achieved. The Boola Katitjin artwork strategy has set a new benchmark for commissioning art on our campuses, and I’m excited by all the new possibilities which lay ahead for future capital works art commission projects at Murdoch University.

I also wish to acknowledge and express my heartfelt appreciation for the support, guidance and generosity provided by Murdoch University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group, Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre staff and Noongar community leader Olman Walley.”


Posted on:

26 Apr 2023

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