Instead of austere domestic still-life pieces, Shireen opted for something more pivotal, more profound as the subject of her work. “They are spirit people,” she said. “They’re all around us.”
Propped up against her walls in her Redfern home, her paintings feature elongated and faceless figures, almost African in their silhouettes but shrouded with Aboriginal influence in colours and the use of lines for visual framing.
Shireen’s Aboriginal father, and her mother who originated from Vanuatu, are obvious influences. As is her upbringing in a tough Pentecostal community she explained, which was touched by the witchcraft of the Aboriginal and Vanuatu people.
“They were tough people but they dressed for church and had a strong influence of witchcraft.”
It is perhaps her exposure to spiritual transcendence that allows her to broach a subject matter many people only consider in the deep roots of their subconscious. “The spirits I paint are of people in trauma; like the blackfellas in the community around here. I capture the universal,” she said.
“It’s almost like you’re dreaming what you’re painting. I don’t draw on my canvas. I paint like I’m dreaming. It would be peculiar to most artists.”
The respected Indigenous leader, who was a Commissioner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, is reveling in the appreciation. “Art brings you back to the edge. It brings you to the spiritual
and makes you a little careful,” she said. “To explore this at a tatty age: I’m rich.” South Sydney Morning Herald