Nici Cumpston’s gentle, quietly spoken demeanour belies a fierce and resolute passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the development and recognition of their artistic practice. Born in Adelaide in 1963, Nici Cumpston, who is of Afghan, English, Irish and Barkindji Aboriginal heritage, is a descendant of the Darling River people of north western, New South Wales. She is also culturally affiliated with the River Murray people and lived for some years at Berri in the South Australian Riverland.
Nici is simultaneously an artist, a curator, a writer, an educator and a builder of relationships.
Having studied fine arts, specialising in Photography at the University of South Australia, she has worked as a photographic lecturer at Tauondi Aboriginal Community College, Port Adelaide, as well as at the University of South Australia. She wrote and delivered the inaugural Indigenous Art, Culture and Design course to the South Australian School of Art students before commencing as the first Indigenous Curator at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2008.
She curated and co-wrote the publication for the major exhibition Desert Country held at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2011, which then toured nationally from 2011 – 2013. In collaboration with Project Curator, Lisa Slade they curated the major South Australian contemporary exhibition HEARTLAND in 2013. She is currently Artistic Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Art Festival to be held at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2015.
She has also been exhibiting her works of art since 1998 and in that time has been invited to participate in many prestigious awards and group exhibitions. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Parliament House Collection Canberra, Macquarie Group Collection, Artbank, Flinders University Art Collection, the Adelaide Festival Centre Foundation and the South Australia Museum among others. She has been commissioned to create signature works of art for public buildings in Adelaide including the Commonwealth Law Courts and the South Australian Department of Health.
In March/April 2014 she will be artist-in-residence, as well as exhibiting works from the series, having-been-there at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia USA. A solo exhibition with works from having-been-there and the Attesting series is also being held at Harvey Art Projects, Ketchum, Idaho.