Jock was born on Nicholson Station bordering on desert country and situated over the Northern Territory border from Kununurra (East Kimberley) where Jock now lives. He spent his working life based at Nicholson, and worked as a stockmen.
He did not ever know his mother his father and grandmother raised him. He had the opportunity to go to Beagle Bay for schooling, but his father and grandmother did not wish him to go which he has regretted all his life. Jock has often commented “If I had spent more time in school than the stockcamp, I would be a lot better off”.
He and his wife have six boys and two girls and thirty-two grandchildren he says this with pride in his voice. He is a real family man and has been rewarded by his children who support their mother and father and form a tight-knit and caring family group.
His artworks are included in National Gallery of Australia and prominent private collections and Jock’s 2006 Solo Exhibition at Japingka Gallery was a sell out success.
Jocks work is very typical of that from the Warmun arts centre because the fact that the artist makes their paint from ochre and natural bonding agents means that certain distinctive colours are used and even the typographical style is very linked with Warmun although the work coming out of Warmun is varied there are elements that link it together.
Ochre has been the most important aspect of aboriginal painting throughout its long history. it is mined and is a hard but crumbly rock and gets its distinctive colour from iron oxide. The source material was traded extensively across Australia in the past, with some material traveling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined to where it was used. It comes in a variety of colours from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown.
Ochres from western Arnhem Land
In the west Kimberley, the ancient gwion gwion images are painted in beautiful mulberry red on rock overhangs and caves. Gwion gwion is the name of a long-beaked bird which started as a spirit man - it pecks at the rock face to catch insects, and sometimes draws blood, leaving the images behind on the rock.
Paints are made by grinding the source rock to a powder and then mixing it with a fluid to bind it together. Traditionally this fluid could be saliva or blood, while in contemporary art an acrylic binder is more commonly used. The rich dark red in some of Jack Britten's paintings comes from the use of kangaroo blood mixed with ochre powder.
I think the fact that some indigenous artists still work with ochre based pigments give their work an authenticity of colour that other artists that work with modern acrylic paints that have a far more diverse pallet when it comes to colour. The use of ochre gives the work a look and feel that people associate with indigenous art from there prior knowledge of the colours used.