The Australia Council for the Arts is deeply saddened by the passing of acclaimed interdisciplinary artist David Page.
The Australia Council Chair Rupert Myer AO expressed his deepest sympathies to David’s family, friends and colleagues on behalf of Council staff.
Mr Myer said David’s passing was a great loss to Australian arts and he would be missed by his family, friends and the national and international arts communities.
Australia Council Executive Director Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Lydia Miller said David’s immense talent and esteemed career was integral to bringing Indigenous arts to a national and international audience.
“David was an inspired and inspiring artist. He was generous, gentle and a strong part of so many people’s lives,” Ms Miller said.
David Page was a descendant of the Nunkul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from South East Queensland.
Born the eighth child of 12 in the extraordinarily talented Page clan, David grew up on a Brisbane housing commission estate. At the age of 12 he won the local talent quest at the Sunnybank Hotel in Mount Gravatt, south east of Brisbane. It was here that he was spotted by a talent scout from Atlantic Records, who saw his potential and signed him up.
When he was 13 he recorded and released two singles and performed as Little Davy Page, a child star, on shows ranging from Countdown to The Paul Hogan Show. In the 1980s David studied saxophone, voice, composition and song at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) at Adelaide University.
David joined the Bangarra Dance Theatre as a resident composer in 1990. He composed scores and also performed with Bangarra at WOMAD concerts in Adelaide and Johannesburg in 1999.
Bangarra Dance Theatre, Patyegrarang – Image credit: Jess Bialek
David composed music for Bangarra’s major works: Praying Mantis Dreaming(1992), Ochres(1995), Ninni (1996), Fish(1997), Skin(2000), Corroboree(2001), Bush(2003), Unaipon/Clan(2004), Boomerang(2005), X300(2007) and Mathinna(2008).
In 2000, David, in collaboration with Steve Francis, contributed music to the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games, the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival and, in 2002, the Sydney Dreaming Festival. In 2006 he contributed to the Indigenous section of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. David composed for the Australian Ballet’s Alchemy (1997) and collaborated with Elena Kats Chernin on Amalgamate (2007).
David’s film credits include Two Bob Mermaid, directed by Darlene Johnson, Oscar and Lucinda directed by Gillian Armstrong, and Green Bush directed by Warwick Thornton.
David has numerous television credits, including music for Heartland, Pride (part of the Seven Deadly Sins series) and Poison for the ABC, and themes for Songlines, Living Black and Pioneers of Love for SBS. David’s short film scores include Round Up, Passing Through, Grace and Saturday Night Sunday Morning, and five of the 13 Bit of Black Business AFC short film series. He composed for the short film Jacob, selected for the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Since 1995, David won four of his eight nominations for the Deadly’s Sound Awards, an ARIA nomination for Heartland in 1996, and was the inaugural winner of the Indigenous Artist Award for The Sidney Myer Foundation in 2000. He also received the 2006 Green Room Award for his solo performance in Page 8 as the Best New Australian Play. David received a Helpmann Award for Best Original Score for Mathinna in 2009.
In 2006 David become a patron of the Arts Law Centre.
In 2014 David performed in the Queensland Theatre Company and Sydney Festival production Black Diggers and composes the soundscape for Bangarra’s new work Patyegarang choreographed by Stephen Page.
Last year brought David’s composition international recognition as composer for the film Spear. An award-winning and groundbreaking work, Spear tells a contemporary Aboriginal story through movement and dance, featuring Bangarra dancers. It follows a young Aboriginal man as he journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Spear’s use of various locations and intricate pacing locates it firmly within the language of cinema without losing any of the power of the original performance medium.