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Aboriginal Art News

Aboriginal Art News is a free news resource to promote and encourage education of Australian Aboriginal art.

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  • 2015: Iron Ore down, Gertie Huddleston up by on Fri, 04 Dec 2015 12:56:13 +1000:
    It has been a year to forget for investors in BHP Billiton Ltd, one of the largest companies by value listed on the Australian stock exchange, with its revenues falling on declining iron ore prices, battling an environmental disaster in Brazil and witness to a fall in its share price by a third during 2015.

    Superannuation funds, large and small, appear to have little choice but to persist with their holdings in BHP due to a lack of other investment options and the fact that the company represents about 8% of the total market capitalisation of the ASX. AustralianSuper chairwoman Heather Ridout (also a member of the board of the Reserve Bank) recently commented that:

    [i]On the coal issue, we have a sustainability option that screens out coal, but not our balanced option because if you screen out coal, you'd have to screen out BHP Billiton from your ….balanced fund, how do you do that? How does that work for investments in Australia? [It's] very, very awkward.[/i]


    In contrast, a product of the iron ore rich Roper River country, artist Gertie Huddleston achieved a record price in the March 2015 Deutscher and Hackett sale of the Laverty collection.

    The identity of the buyer of the Huddleston painting is not known; however AustralianSuper could have purchased the artwork and displayed it in its offices - unlike a self-managed fund, which under current legislation would have little choice but to bubble-wrap and store this delightful painting out of sight.

    Gertie Huddleston (dec)
    Ngukurr Landscape (1998)
    179.5 x 128.0 cm
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    Sold by Deutscher and Hackett for $21,000 (including buyer's premium) on 8 March 2015, a record price for the artist

    (Gertie Huddleston became a senior member of [url=http://ngukurrarts.net.au/Ngukurr_Art/Artists.html]Ngukurr Artists[/url]
    when it opened around 2000, and before this was represented by Karen Brown and Alcaston.)





    [b]Have you subscribed to Michael Fox's newsletter yet?[/b]
    In addition to articles like this, his latest newsletter includes:

    A summary of the 5 important tax changes for small business (tax cuts, tax deductions, tax offsets, FBT changes and instant asset write-offs)

    Public holidays and employee entitlements by state

    [i]Catalyst[/i]
    - the rebadged National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA) which will invest $12 million each year in innovative projects and initiatives from arts and cultural organisations. $8 million per year has been returned to the Australia Council from funds formerly allocated to NPEA, and

    The resale royalty review, which we're expecting an announcement on soon.



    [url=mailto:michael@artsaccountants.com.au?subject=Please add me to your mailing list] Subscribe to Michael's newsletter here[/url]
  • Darwin's Chan Building to be Transformed by on Tue, 01 Dec 2015 09:56:01 +1000:
    One of the most exciting architectural projects in the Northern Territory will be led by local firm [url=http://www.dkj.net.au]DKJ projects.architects[/url]
    in partnership with the nationally acclaimed [url=http://www.fkmarchitects.com]Fender Katsalidis Mirams Architects[/url]
    .

    The re-purposing of Darwin’s Chan Building into a modern, dedicated visual art gallery was announced in the 2015 NT Budget earlier this year. And the $18.3 million project using a mix of private and public funds will transform the Chan with stunning proposed designs for the building.

    “The Territory Government is extremely excited about the redevelopment of the Chan Building,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said. “I’m delighted leading designers DKJ projects.architects and Fender Katsalidis Mirams Architects have understood the vision for the project and produced some exceptional designs for it.This project will invigorate the CBD of Darwin and create a drawcard for locals and visitors alike.”

    Arts and Museums Minister Gary Higgins said the project will deliver “a new cultural institution to further promote Northern Territory culture, especially our Indigenous art and culture, and to support cultural exchange with Asia. It will be a venue Territorians can be proud of and will expand the horizons of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory substantially.”

    MAGNT chair, Allan Myers AO QC – who's determination to extend MAGNT into town from its suburban sea-side setting was instrumental in getting this project off the ground - said the project is an “..inspired initiative. The benefits for the people of the Northern Territory of having a great art museum in the civic centre of Darwin will be immense, both culturally and economically. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is proud to have the opportunity to display and interpret a far greater quantity of beautiful and significant art.”

    It is not yet known whether all the art in MAGNT – including its significant collection of early Papunya boards and the annual Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (the Telstras) – will move into the Chan, leaving only museum matters in the current building.

    The Sydney-based Fender Katsalidis Mirams Architects’ design expertise extends to a broad range of sectors including urban design/master planning, residential, institutional and commercial. They are one of Australian’s leading design firms and bring cutting edge design skills and broad experience of Gallery and Cultural projects. These include the prize-winning private Aboriginal art museum, the Garangula Gallery at Harden – between Young and Cootamundra, Bendigo Art Gallery, a new waterside art centre for Hobart, the Ian Potter Museum at Melbourne Uni and a strange new viewing platform for Circular Quay.

    DKJ projects.architecture is a Darwin based multi award winning design firm with experience in cultural projects such as the Charles Darwin University Centre for Indigenous Knowledge, Nhulunbuy Airport and a mix of hotels and apartment blocks. The practice brings to the project expert technical and documentation skills based on 40 years of design for the Northern Territory environment and construction industry.
  • BANGARRA PLAYS IT AGAIN by on Tue, 01 Dec 2015 08:26:09 +1000:
    When Humphrey Bogart in '[i]Casablanca[/i]
    ' demanded that the pianist at Rick's nightclub,“Play it, Sam; play 'As Time Goes By'” - he never actually said, “Play it again.....” - he was expecting a pretty faithful repetition of his favourite song. And there is a thing called choreology which can faithfully annotate a dance work so that its repetition achieves a remarkable likeness of the original.

    But, right from the start at Carriageworks in Sydney last Friday, choreographer (and former dancer) Stephen Page warned us not to expect his reprise of '[i]Ochres[/i]
    ' 21 years down the track “to be like the first time”.

    Why not? Those five performances at the Nambunbdah Festival at Belvoir Street Theatre in September 1994 were the breakthrough that the young Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page himself, and, arguably, audiences who wanted to experience some sense of Indigenous culture without having to head for Arnhemland all needed. No wonder that the company cancelled its sixth performance to appear at Paul Keating's [i]'Creative Nation[/i]
    ' policy launch in Canberra. And no wonder that Page – introducing 'Ochres' 2015 – referred to that era as “Paul Keating time”!

    Jill Sykes in the [i]Sydney Morning Herald[/i]
    hailed the original for its “fusion of thematic and movement sources in a way that speaks directly and clearly to an audience without any signs of self-consciousness”. I was there too, and told [i]Sydney Review[/i]
    readers that Page's speech about the spiritual significance of ochres was unneeded, “He'd said it all in his choreography...fusing the traditional and the modern, crossing between life in those two worlds and telling stories that delighted the eye”.

    For this slip of a lad from South Brisbane, who once admitted to me that a life of crime was only slightly behind the possibility of a life in dance, had been inspired by his Nunukul/Yugambeh father to take time out in Arnhemland with the Yolngu and open his eyes to the non-urban Aboriginal world. This humility keeps paying back with a series of cultural advisers for Bangarra from that area – especially the amazing Djakapurra Munyarryun appearing in both productions of '[i]Ochres[/i]
    ' 21 years apart. In between, he starred in the Olympics opening ceremony, of course.

    But Page has moved on – so have the skills of his dancers. So, it's a better danced, more contemporary '[i]Ochres[/i]
    ' seen today at Carriageworks – better danced, apart from the aching absence of Stephen's brother Russell, the best Australian male dancer of his time – sadly cut short. Today there's more team-work, less individuality – apart from Djakapurra, a mountain of a man today compared to his 1994 self, but still as extraordinarily light on his earth-rooted feet. His massive presence – moving, singing, didg-playing or just standing – is undoubtedly the show's highlight, almost matched by the concentration of Elma Kris in everything she contributed.

    Personally, I think that the show suffers in comparison with the original. But memories of such ephemerality are notoriously dodgy. Maybe the Yolngu connection has weakened – the [i]Yellow [/i]
    sequence for the women – credited to co-choreographer Bernadette Walong - seemed to lack the commonality and intimacy of tribal life that I remember; and the culminating [i]White [/i]
    section had lost what I described in 1994 as its capacity to “slip from the domestic to the mythic – and back again – making dancers invisible in the internalised intensity of their performance, transforming Arnhemland's chalky shield against the evils of the night into ordinary urban make-up as they re-humanised”.

    However, the energy of the [i]Black [/i]
    chapter, where men reveal innate hunting, challenging and fighting, even animal instincts, was memorable; and the [i]Red [/i]
    section, showing male and female relations ranging from the intimate to the violent, was moving, ending with a traditional medicine woman dealing with a sick man. So the show's strength lay in individual achievements – the corps de ballet work lacked Bangarra's usual originality.

    Intriguingly, the third Page Brother – David – revealed that he'd done virtually nothing to update his score, which felt as fresh as ever in its melding of the traditional and the contemporary. I swear I picked-up on a Torres Strait Islander rap that I'd not noticed in 1994! And the Ernabella women's chanting in [i]Yellow [/i]
    feminised the stage perfectly.

    Perhaps the hugest difference over 21 years is the audience! Belvoir was not crowded when '[i]Ochres[/i]
    ' opened, and the Enmore Theatre where it returned after a year on the road in such places as Berlin and Tokyo was bigger but rougher. At Carriageworks, their largest venue was filled on opening night – and hopefully on succeeding nights until 5 December. For this is a work to treasure for its ideas and its history.
  • THE VERNACULAR AT THE ASIA PACIFIC TRIENNIAL by on Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:14:33 +1000:
    You can spend three years planning for a massive event like the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) at QAGoMA in Brisbane, and then something small and unpredictable but remarkable happens quite outside all your planning.

    So, on the Sunday of the opening weekend, a Gond artist from India, Venkat Ramen Singh Shyam, talking about the revival of the Gond vernacular traditions in central India in the late 20th Century, surprisingly paid tribute to Australian Aboriginal artist, Djambawa Marawili. He'd travelled to India in the 90s, met up with Venkat's pioneering uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam, even creating an artwork with him in which the importance of water and its relationship to various totemic animals from either side of the Indian Ocean was put down collaboratively on canvas, a coming-together of tribal cultures. But was it “tribal art”, as it was delimited in India?

    Marawili said “yes”, of course it's tribal art. But it's also contemporary art, for we are living in the present and reflecting the world today as well as the mythology of our pasts. This gave Jangarh the courage to take his art to the world – and inspire his nephew, who explained in Brisbane, “Every new thought I have is contemporary”.

    Then, enter Djon Mundine. The senior Indigenous curator in Australia had, it turned out accompanied Marawili to India and was able to fill in the gaps for Venkat about this seminal moment in contemporary Indian art history – the “liberation” of Gond art, as Marawili's art centre director, Will Stubbs, put it in amazement. Mundine was hardly part of the APT, but was there in an interesting add-on organised by the Arts Councils of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, bringing together Indigenous curators from the three Commonwealth countries. That, it's hoped, will lead to annual meetings accompanied by curated exhibitions of all three countries' artworks and a magazine to record their deliberations.

    What do they have in common? I suspect the struggle to be considered 'contemporary' is harder in Australia than the other two. But then the 'Aboriginal' art I've seen from NZ and Canada is mainly of the Western art-trained variety, lacking the visceral authenticity of Desert, Kimberley or Arnhemland art that is made in Australia by artists trained only by thousands of years of pre-literate mnemonics – learning through visual imagery as the West does not.

    Only Gunybi Ganambarr and Yakultji Napangati represented this tradition in the APY – odd given the priority given to the vernacular from other countries in the region such as Mongolia, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia and, above all, India. Yakultji had not attempted to rise to the challenge of this massive international opportunity, simply supplying two of her classic canvases. But Gunybi (pronounced, I discovered, Guinbee) had taken his adventurism to new extremes with lustrous water-tank engravings, galvanised iron cut with an angle grinder and the addition of powdered ochre 3D designs to the rubber conveyor belts that miners had discarded on his Country over the years, having used them to remove that Country.

    Segar Passi from the Torres Strait may be self-taught, but the Christian influence on his island of Mer must have extended into his art, for the largest canvas yet produced by this 73 year old looks unexceptionally Western, while containing much geological and meteorological information and lore. Danie Mellor, however, may identify with the rainforests just south of the Cape, but chooses to make his art with the intellect of an academic rather than the visual instincts of a Mamu/Ngadjonji man. Yves Klein blue, Einstein's discovery of a curved world and Anish Kapoor's voids all creep into his suite of rainforest photos presented on shiny aluminium panels to capture something of the watery tropical world he's responding to.

    But in a sense, he's closer to the vernacular works coming from Asia than his fellow Blak artists in the APT – Christian Thompson, Brook Andrew and Richard Bell. For his work is deeply rooted in his ancestry, not just availing himself of it conceptually. So Thompson sings in the Bidjara language most mellifluously – but, as it's all about himself as an individual, quite lacks any sense of traditional ceremony. And Andrew coats three galleries' walls in bold Wiradjuri dendroglyph diagonals before putting back the colonial art that normally hangs there, then adds some very loosely related, grainy photos from the same past. It makes for a collision of cultures in his mind. The photo of an Indian postal worker, for instance, may have had totally unintended links with the delightful Khaligat painting by Kalam Patua showing a heroic postman battling a tiger to get the mail through in India, but failed to make much sense otherwise!

    Indeed, round the corner and outside the APT, a striking photo by New Zealander Lisa Reihana called [i]'The Dandy' [/i]
    stood proud amongst grand European portraits by Romney, Van Dyke and Reynolds. By putting an elegantly tattooed Maori into a 19th Century European outfit and showing just how magnificently her people would have matched their 'masters' if they'd chosen to, she made her case for the retrospective rezoning of Indigenous culture rather better than Andrew.

    Provocateur Bell was part of the hugely expanded Kids' APT program, cheekily engaging children on film about their thoughts on fame and fortune.

    The performative and the body were a strong part of this APT – encouraged it seems by new QAGoMA Director, Chris Saines But he probably didn't make the links that Will Stubbs from Buku Larrnggay Arts Centre did between Yolngu culture and the Bible. For, just as the Old Testament preceded literacy and would have been the responsibility of the elders to memorise and pass on – inevitably using song to assist them – so Yolngu and other Aboriginal story-telling invariably comes with musical accompaniment. So Gunybi Ganambarr's silent, static works have a musical background that in some ways was more present than the pan-Melanesian Yumi Danis group that had workshopped dances in advance of the APT to lead people into their cultural cave at the top of the GoMA building. Somehow the resulting hip-hop didn't seem to fit the bill.

    But the seated Anasheed performance from Western Sydney – an Islamic Sufi male chorus chanting deeply from the Koran and other poetic sources - moved mystically. With lowered eyes and hands only occasionally raised at particularly ecstatic moments, the half-hour performance's dynamic lay entirely in its effect upon our spiritual beings. And, given events in Paris the previous weekend, it was powerful in denying that Islam can mean only fanaticism. For, according to artist George Gittoes' recent film,[i] 'Snow Monkey'[/i]
    , the Taliban delight in destroying Sufi shrines in Afghanistan.

    From the inside, Nur Shkembri, on an all-Aussie Islamic panel of speakers, explained how, pre-9/11, being Muslim was a private matter with hints of exoticism for the rest of the world. After that event, “we became a threat”, and Aussie artist Abdul Abdullah's series of 'monkey- mask' wedding photos in the exhibition are “calling out the audience's prejudices”.

    Intriguing that Australia had as many Islamic artists on show at the APT as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, etc.

    With the once dominant China largely absent, the political baton was taken and run with by the likes of Taloi Havini from Bougainville, Hit Man Gurung from Nepal, Baatzorig Bat Jargal from Mongolia and both Leang Seckon and Khvay Samnang from Cambodia. And I never even found the Georgians!

    It's that sort of event – with at least 83 artists from 32 countries, an impossible amount to see, different viewing priorities each time you go, and quite a few dull patches. But, lucky Queenslanders, the APT8 is on until April. Whatever you do, don't miss the panoply of Indians; for, despite the ill-considered thought of Malaysian artist, Yee I-Lann that it's impossible to erase the ethnographic aspect of Indigenous art, they proved to my satisfaction that the retention of their tribal roots and the presence of their gods in their art, they're quite capable of dealing with such contemporary matters as AIDS, rape and the degradation of women, the traumas of the Asian tsunami and environmental pollution.

    As Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of the new National Gallery Singapore, which opened the same weekend as the APT, resoundingly declared, “Artists are often seen as being unconventional, separate from the mainstream. Through our exhibitions, visitors will realise that in fact, artists are integral to society and that art is not created in a vacuum”.
  • A Murri to the Murray by on Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:51:12 +1000:
    Arone Meeks is in Mildura at The Art Vault, a privately funded contemporary arts facility housing three gallery spaces as well as specialist printmaking facilities. Named after the building's original incarnation as a bank, The Art Vault was opened in 2008 by Julian Burnside and Robyn Archer, and has since attracted a large number of prominent and emerging artists. It also operates a successful artist in residence program.

    Currently The Art Vault is promoting the Arone Meeks residency and exhibition as the journey of a saltwater man to freshwater country. "A connection of songlines, histories and trade routes that he will inevitably return to, as part of a cycle of culture sharing, teaching and learning, to engage with the local indigenous arts community. The process has also been one of discovery within a unique environment and landscape of extremes," explains Geoff Dixon.

    "Transit and transience hold great significance in Arone's work - defining him as a constant traveler, both geographically and spiritually. He views the world - though inextricably divided by culture, borders and the displacement of people that is particularly acute to us today - as evolving by continual movement / migration since the beginning of time."

    Exploring his indigenous connection has indeed been a work in progress for Meeks, connecting many individuals and communities. Born in Laura, Far North Queensland, his creative future was informed by his Kukumidiji country and its remarkable rock painting, the rainforest and the reef. He then spent time in the arts community of Mornington Island, emerging with stories from his maternal grandfather. And his identity as an artist consolidated into his own language and imagery, so much so that he co-founded Boomalli, a like-minded cooperative of indigenous urban artists feeling displaced from traditional indigenous art and contemporary Australian art. But his individual [url=http://www.aboriginalartdirectory.com/shop/artist/arone-meeks.php]creative journey has reaped many successes, awards and residencies[/url]
    .

    This latest exhibition comes on the tail of another two recent and pivotal group projects Meeks has been involved with. Most recently, "Sorcerers, Warriors and Spirits", an exhibition curated for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair at KickArts Contemporary Art Space and exploring contemporary indigenous spirituality. And "East Coast Encounters", an initiative of the Maritime Museum, Sydney, which documents Cook's journey up the coast past Arone's Country and beyond - to Possession Island.

    It's not surprising that he regards his time here as one of culture sharing where his art informs his audience / indigenous workshop students - and vice versa. Because this also happens to be the way his printmaking techniques, namely mono-print, linocut and lithography, inform his painting.

    The exhibition runs until 7 December 2015.
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