Learning Resource

Spray painted car on a lake with mountains in the background

Robert Fielding
Holden On


Robert Fielding, Western Arrernte and Yankunytjatjara peoples, Holden On, 2021–22, commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra for the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony. Courtesy the artist and Mimili Maku Arts.

Robert Fielding creates works that retell overlooked or forgotten stories to create a stronger future. His works often feature abandoned cars that have been recreated using paint and light, influenced by a long road connecting to the artist’s home in Mimili Community, littered with mutuka katalypa (car wrecks).

Fielding paints his cars with designs drawn from his rich cultural heritage. He installs lights underneath the car, “bringing back to life something long thought dead”. The artist asks the audience to think about the stories held within the car and how they remain present in Country, language and culture. This work honours the important role of cars in remote communities in enabling families to attend ceremonies and visit country.

Holden On is presented on a pontoon on Lake Burley Griffin. The artificial lake was created in 1963 through the damming of the Molonglo River, which resulted in the flooding and destruction of an important ceremony ground. The work comments on the possession of Ngunnawal and Ngambri land to create Kamberri/Canberra, the seat of colonial political power in this country. It speaks to the endurance and evolution of First Nations people.

What do you notice first in this artwork?

What are you curious about?

Think of a trip or a journey that you have taken with your family, friends, or community.

What transport did you take on this journey? What did you see? What conversations did you share?

How does this journey live on in your life? Is it through memory, stories and or objects?

Spend some time thinking about the objects you have at home – are there any that connect you to a journey you have taken? This could include connecting you to the place, the people, or activities you experienced on this journey.

Keep in mind the object you have the strongest connection to. What it is like to hold this object? Using paper and any drawing materials you like to draw or write about this object in as much detail as you can remember.

Once you have completed this drawing surround it with marks, patterns, symbols, or words that represent what this journey means to you today in the present?

Lastly, think about what you would like to carry from this journey into the future, it might be a feeling or important knowledge you would like to remember.

From the Audio Tour:

Artist Robert Fielding on Holden On

We are part of the land, the Manta, the Wiru, from the Earth to the ocean, from the ocean to the desert we are one.

Ceremony to me now is about identity, it's about story. And how important it is that we embrace one another.

And that this ceremony is not only my ceremony – that the ceremony that I'm sharing with you, that it belonged to somebody else.

And that I am only the creator to tell a story through somebody else's possession. Because I chose to go backwards to move forward.

And for me to be strong on who I am as a person, that I am Anangu, Aboriginal.

By bringing [this work] to Canberra, this new retelling acts as a memorial. A memorial of what is lost, but also a challenge at the front door of our politicians to do better by our people. Through creating an apparition on Lake Burley Griffin, the story of these cars, the people who travelled in them and the memories of all the Aboriginal people who have travelled this land since the beginning of time, is brought to the political heart of Australia. It is a challenge and a respectful honouring of our past, our present and our future — where we will all, as people, travel next?

— Robert Fielding, 2021