Nina Battley's abstract art is inspired as much by her exotic childhood as it is by her bright and breezy Top End childhood.

Story By Kerry Sharp

Rich memories from a childhood lived on three continents and world travels as an adult have helped map a celebrated career for Top End abstract artist Nina Battley. Nina was born in Germany to an East Prussian mother whose family fled its homeland during World War II. Nina’s family later spent four-and-a-half years in Jakarta in Indonesia and two years in Teheran in Iran before immigrating to Western Australia in 1978. Each new location held a special place in Nina’s heart and vivid memories influenced her creative adulthood.
“We had a beautiful childhood in Indonesia, playing with other kids in the straw huts and going out to the islands in our little boat,” Nina says. “My father worked with an old sailor who let us stay in his bungalow and go canoeing in the beautiful clear waters there.”
In her child’s mind, Teheran was breathtaking mountains, skiing and great food. “Unfortunately, political unrest during the Shah’s regime escalated into civil war and we had to pack up and leave the country quickly,” Nina says. “We were relieved to get away safely.”
Favourite Indonesian aspects – such as the tropical environment, outdoor lifestyle and exquisite food – are what Nina and partner Peter Graf also love about Darwin. They met in Perth and Austrian-born Peter, an audio engineer and cameraman, shared Nina’s desire to escape her comfort zone and explore new horizons.
“I was working for my father’s corporate travel company and had to travel to Darwin on business in 2004,” Nina says. “Pete came too and we went bush in a campervan for a few days and absolutely loved it. We decided Darwin was for us. A year later, we’d sold up and moved here.”
Nina, a sibling to brothers Jesko and Ilja and sister Nicole, followed in the footsteps of her mother, who was a graphic designer in Germany and studied fine arts and became a painter after immigrating to Perth. Nina graduated with a Fine Arts Diploma from the West Australian School of Art and Design in 1992.
“I always painted in my spare time and did quite a few exhibitions but I needed to do more,” Nina says. “Once in Darwin, I decided to give art a red-hot go and it’s been fantastic.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #71

Outback Magazine: June/July 2010