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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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  • Danie Mellor: Exotic Lies Sacred Ties by on Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:39:51 +1000:
    A decade of artwork by leading contemporary Indigenous artist Danie Mellor is the focus of a major survey exhibition opening at TarraWarra Museum of Art on May 10, on tour from The University of Queensland Art Museum.

    The exhibition brings together more than 50 of the artist’s key works drawn from public collections, including the UQ Art Museum, Australian Museum, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Bathurst Regional Gallery and private collections.

    It is the first large scale exhibition to consider in depth how Mellor has contributed to contemporary Australian art in a range of styles and media, and our understanding of Australia’s colonial past.

    Mellor’s choice of a wide range of media, which includes intricate combinations of pastel, pencil, glitter, Swarovski crystal and watercolour on paper and sculptural installations that combine mosaic, taxidermy animals, gold leaf, neon and found objects, is integral to a conceptual understanding of his work.

    Exhibition Curator Maudie Palmer AO says the survey invites engagement with Australia’s shared and contested histories through core themes in Mellor’s work. “His visual narrative relies on manipulating British imagery from the 18th and 19th centuries, specifically iconography borrowed from blue and white Spode china, which he layers with his own record of the cultural differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia,” Ms Palmer says.

    Mellor was born in Mackay in 1971, has lived variously in Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa and now resides in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He maintains strong links to his mother’s Country in the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland as a descendent of her Scottish, Irish and Indigenous heritage of Mamu and Ngagen rainforest people with connections to the Jirrbal.

    The exhibition is timely, following Mellor’s inclusion in several significant exhibitions in recent years, including Story place: Indigenous art of Cape York and the rainforest at the Queensland Art Gallery (2003), both National Indigenous Art Triennials, Culture warriors and undisclosed, at the National Gallery of Australia (2007 and 2012), and Sakahàn: 1st international quinquennial of new Indigenous art, at the National Gallery of Canada (2013).

    TarraWarra Museum of Art Director, Victoria Lynn, says, “The work of Danie Mellor introduces us to many intriguing worlds drawn from indigenous history, 19th century imagery and the landscape of spirits. The artist invites us on a journey through these intricate, delicate and magical scenes. This exhibition provides the first opportunity for our audiences in Victoria to consider the work of Danie Mellor in depth”.

    A new publication supported by a grant from the Gordon Darling Foundation and featuring full-colour reproductions of all the works has been produced for the exhibition (RRP $33). A free Learning Resource will also accompany the exhibition, and will be available to download from the UQ Art Museum website.
  • Desert Song and the Pike Family by on Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:36:40 +1000:
    There are two very worthwhile exhibitions on in the West right now, and if you're not able to make it the good folks there have also reproduced these exhibitions online: [i]Desert Song[/i]
    and the [i]Pike Family[/i]

    The first exhibition, [i]Desert Song[/i]
    , brings together 25 women artists from across the Western and Central Desert artists including Esther Giles Nampitjinpa, Lorna Ward Napanangka, Walangkura Napanangka, Yinarupa Gibson Nangala, Ningura Napurrula, Eileen Napaltjarri and Minnie Pwerle. It looks at the links between Indigenous Art and the associated Culture and Stories of the ancient 'Songlines' of Australia and how they inform the remarkable paintings on display in this breathtaking and informative exhibition of Indigenous paintings from all around Australia.

    Running alongside this exhibition is the very interesting, [i]Pike Family[/i]

    Jimmy Pike (1940-2002) was a great story-teller and illustrator of the traditional lifestyle as he experienced it, living as a young man with his family in the Great Sandy Desert. As a teenager he followed most of his countrymen who had begun moving north into cattle station country (the Fitzroy Valley). They had heard of the abundant food and water there, and the desert was steadily being depopulated as the northward migration of families continued.

    During the '90s, Jimmy Pike became a very well-known artist; he was a prolific drawer (using multi-coloured felt pens), a painter, a printmaker, and a designer for textiles and silk goods. His stories of the desert thus became everyday items in wider Australia.

    It's interesting to note that the organising gallery of this exhibition, Japingka, which had a 30-year association with Jimmy Pike and his family, was so named because of a site in the Great Sandy Desert where the Walmajarri people, including Jimmy Pike’s clan, came together. It was during the dry season that the people followed the movements of animals or the flowering of bush plants to find places of greatest food supply, moving between waterholes in small family groups so as not to drain the resources. It was during the northern cyclone season when the storms would roll into the desert that these waterholes would be replenished, and the land revived.

    Usually around Christmas, when there was enough food and water for all the people to be in one place, they would come together and manage all social and marital business, and carry out ceremonies and rituals. Relatives would meet each other after a year's absence, so it was a time of great significance.

    In the desert waterholes need to be maintained and land needs to be managed by patchwork burning. As the population dwindled from people leaving the desert, the land itself became less productive, the waterholes were covered over with drifting sand and the larger animals disappeared. The time-honoured balance between man and the land was interrupted.

    Thirty years after his family left the desert, Jimmy Pike began recording his memories in paintings and in books written with his wife, Pat Lowe. He painted for about 22-years and his artworks were represented in major collections, both nationally and internationally.

    At the time of Jimmy Pike’s death, his brother Edgar Pike began painting some works at his small community at Ngumpan. Edgar was about 5 or 6 years younger than Jimmy, and said that he remembered fewer stories of his family life in the desert. But the great oral tradition of the desert life was compelling, and the people had begun making journeys back into the old country, revisiting the sacred sites and major waterholes. Edgar Pike’s paintings recorded some of the major sites that his brother had been painting previously.

    Edgar Pike’s daughter, Francine Steele developed into a skilled artist in her own right and although early in her career, her paintings are distinctive and impressive.

    Jimmy Pike began his career in Fremantle before the Japingka Gallery was formed, his first drawings and limited edition prints were created in the early 1980s.

    Now the artworks of Edgar and Francine are brought together with Jimmy Pike's, and include Jimmy's rare prints and silk scarves.

    See the Exhibitions online at Japingka [url=]Desert Song[/url]
    and the [url=]Pike Family[/url]
  • Djilpin Arts to stream live on YouTube by on Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:26:40 +1000:
    Djilpin Arts, with host Tom E Lewis, is set to stream live in the first ever YouTube screening by an indigenous community.

    Located in the remote community of Beswick (Wugularr) on the south-west border of Arnhem Land, Djilpin Arts will showcase traditional Aboriginal song and dance, hip hop, weaving and painting with [i]Walk With Us[/i]
    , from their YouTube channel. It will also take in a virtual tour of the [i]Ghunmarn Culture Centre[/i]
    , home of the 'Blanasi Collection', and the brand new, award-winning accommodation at [i]Djakanimba Pavilions[/i]

    Djilpin Arts stages the annual [i]Walking with Spirits Festival [/i]
    at the magnificent Malkgulumbu, Beswick Falls, where community members from all over Arnhem Land meet to re-enact the ancient art of corroboree with fire, music and imagery. [i]Walk With Us[/i]
    is your personal invitation to experience this culture online.

    Established in 2002, Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation operates from the Ghunmarn Cultural Centre in Beswick and the Katherine Gallery. It operates with a handful of permanent indigenous staff who maintain, develop and promote the indigenous traditional and contemporary visual, multi-media and performing arts of the Katherine and Arnhem regions.

    Djilpin’s indigenous membership encompasses people from Wugularr and other communities, which are the Rittharngu/Wagalak, Dalabon, Mialli, Mara, Jawoyn and Rembarrnga language groups.

    It will stream live on Thursday 24 April at the following times:

    NT & SA from 7pm (ACST)
    WA 5.30pm
    Eastern States 7.30pm (AEST)

    [url=]Djilpin Arts YouTube[/url]
  • ABORIGINAL ARTIST WINS BIG BULGARI PRIZE by on Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:19:44 +1000:
    Anyone who bought a painting by Daniel Boyd (via the Ros Oxley9 Gallery) will have had their taste and wisdom confirmed by this week's announcement that he's taken out the third Bulgari Art Award worth $80,000, and delivered his stunning painting, '[i]Untitled[/i]
    ' 2014 into the AGNSW's permanent collection.

    Boyd – just 31 and not quite as old as the other 'mid-career' artists, Jon Cattapan and Michael Zavros who preceded him in winning the Bulgari – is a Kudjla/Gangalu man from North Queensland whose recent art has concentrated more on his Vanuatu ancestry. His Great-great Grandfather was black-birded from his Pentecost Island home in the 19th Century to work as a slave in the Queensland sugar plantations. 2013 was the 150th anniversary of this practice's commencement. And Boyd's winning work is based on an archival photo of women at an extraordinarily peaceful island waterfall, helping the artist to both come to terms with his ancestral landscape and to make an ironic point about Australia's brutal aggression in its unappealing past.

    So, how 'Aboriginal' is the work and the artist? “I can't avoid painting as an Aboriginal person”, Boyd explained simply at the Art Gallery of NSW, whose curators in conjunction with the Gallery's trustees and the Italian jewellers, Bulgari chose the artist to win. He (or she) then paints a work to go into the Gallery's collection – receiving $50,000 – and also gets $30,000 to visit Italy. There Boyd expects to meet the craftsmen who create Bulgari's premium jewellery; he also intends to examine aspects of the Enlightenment in Italy – the era which informed European colonialism, including its cognisance of slavery.

    Oddly, the Gallery sees Boyd's black and white works – a series he's been working on since 2009 – as using “dotting reminiscent of various historical and recent sources in both western and Aboriginal art”. I'm not sure the artist is appropriating desert dotting, though, with his use of a glue stick to create a mottled surface to his reconstructions of photos. In an animation in the most recent Asia Pacific Triennial, the dots referenced the stars that were so important to both his island ancestors and to Captain Cook's voyaging. They must also reference the pixels in photography - “a lens through which the world is both viewed and distorted. It's a kind of erasure of memory or history,” he says in the APT catalogue, “relating to the process that governments used through Australian history disregarding Aboriginal culture and systematically taking their culture away from them”.

    Interesting use of “they” and “them”.

    Closely involved in proceedings was Julie Ann Morrison, who uniquely holds the jobs of Managing Director of Bulgari in both Australia and the UK. She added to festivities at the AGNSW by announcing that the generous Award will continue for the next three years. But don't think of applying; the selection process is totally proactive.
  • PATRON/ COLLECTOR = THE FUTURE by on Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:15:38 +1000:
    I had arranged to meet Pat Corrigan – Art Collector and Patron, especially of Aboriginal art, at the Art Gallery of NSW at 5 o'clock for a glass of wine and a chat. He was already there when I arrived (I was on time, he was early), but the Gallery was closing so we went looking elsewhere.

    We drove around for a bit until Pat settled on a café/bar in Woolloomooloo next to the harbor. Looking from the window where we sat was a simple open paved space with palm trees artfully planted like totems; a very dark open doorway on the building opposite faced diagonally into the area which had an odd absence of people. Long vertical shadows from the trees gave the scene a beautiful strangeness. I half expected to see Janet Laurence and Edward Hopper having a late lunch.

    My first question to Pat from a prepared list was, “Why Tommy Watson?” I had read in [i]New Beginnings[/i]
    , the book of his Aboriginal collection, that his first experience with Aboriginal art and painters was Watson. Knowing how and why he had responded to that particular painter would be the lead in, telling me what I needed to know: What IS that first emotional HIT of desert art that can make your hair stand on end?

    Pat had indeed experienced that rush of recognition, the half comprehending half not, to art of mystery, strangeness and mind numbing beauty, which is sometimes how we respond to good indigenous art. Although I did not have a specific answer, his enthusiasm had said it all anyway - I was sitting opposite a man whose mind is too fast tracked to be bothered with the pedantry of a list of queries.

    [i]New Beginnings[/i]
    is a staggering achievement, visually and intellectually. It delivers answers to Pat Corrigan’s impulse to collect, and an insight into his taste in art. What ensued over a glass of wine was a welter of conversation and laughter beyond the capability of the pen dangling limply from my hand. It showed where this man is coming from.

    Pat Corrigan AM is [i]The Patrone[/i]
    , The Philanthropist: the collector of paintings, sculpture, books, photography and some extremely interesting side-glances. Still a dreamer at 83, still adding to his collections, still gifting works to Galleries, Universities, Libraries. Still looking for the next adventure.

    The role of Patron in building civilizations can never be fully estimated. Without the Patron art, architecture, literature, music could not emerge fully into the light. Money is what gives the world the art and art is the load-stone of civilized cultures. Without the Medici’s, we wouldn’t have Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, without the Catholic church we would not have some of the richest art and music in history, without Guell we wouldn’t have Gaudi, to name a skimpy few. Without Janet Holmes a Court and Pat Corrigan AM, and others, we wouldn’t have great and important collections of Aboriginal Art.

    Enthusiastic, witty, inventive, co-operative, multi-dimensional, full of beans, warm, engaging, attractive, above all, generous. Corrigan, in truth, epitomizes what we figuratively refer to as a Renaissance Man. Australia’s Lorenzo di Medici.

    As a self-made man in the classic tradition, his personal history has been forged on a fierce grid. He has re-booted his life again and again, always with the energy, inspiration and acumen to do so. Looking at him talking and laughing, one can see that his secret is enjoyment – life is exciting for him.

    He was born in Central China to English parents. As a small child he spent four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Hong Kong with his mother, during WW 2 in the Pacific. The first career on leaving school began as a junior clerk at Unilever. At eighteen he borrowed $1,000 to start his own freight company, calling it Corrigan’s Express.

    The genius of this at such a young age and the success that followed, rewarded him the kind of wealth he needed to follow his dream of collecting art. A passion was born. The kid who had spent ‘time’ in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with the love of beauty and the promise to himself untouched, was already a rich man when most people are still deciding what to do with their lives.

    Making friends with the artists he admired, Storrier, Olsen, Whiteley, Quilty, Cossington-Smith, Gascoigne, Janet Laurence, Pro Hart, John Coburn and many more, the collection and the relationships grew. He ‘discovered’ (his word), Australian photography, buying Bill Henson, Graham McCarter, Max Dupain, Greg Weight and so many more.

    Then came another re-booting - Aboriginal Art.

    From walking into the AGNSW and seeing a large Aboriginal art exhibition for the first time, and spotting Tommy Watson – a whole new passion erupted, sourcing his pictures from galleries and dealers rather than journeying into the outback. He has been to Alice Springs a couple of times and is friends with art suppliers to desert communities, Chapman and Bailey based there as well as in Sydney.

    He knows the painting he wants the moment he sees it. He trusts his ‘eye’. The long introspection and head scratching associated with buying art is not his thing. What does take time is his research into the artist and the art-work, acquainting himself with location, historical background and other information relevant to the picture.

    [i]New Beginnings – Classic Paintings from the Corrigan Collection of 21st Century Aboriginal Art[/i]
    . Written by Emily McCulloch Childs and Ross Gibson with a Preface by Margo Neale, cover painting by Wingu Tingima. The book is a must for scholars of Aboriginal art. Page after page of paintings from the Western Desert are breathtaking. Every response to the natural world is here, deliberately captivating your eye and your senses.

    Ross Gibson writes of Corrigan’s clear curatorial vision, and tight focus. He chooses works only from 2000, of new and emerging artists from desert areas. These ‘emerging’ artists only began painting in their 60’s and older. Many have died since the collection began.

    Professor of Contemporary Art, Ross Gibson: “Examined intently, these pictures are almost always particular engagements with one big idea: they tell of the necessity to understand notions of relationship, inter-dependency and systematic responsibility within a delicate environment.” These artists are “Creators of unprecedented mind devises”

    Artists of the Corrigan collection: Tommy Watson, Bill Whiskey, Naata Nungurrayi, Patji Presley, Dorothy Napangardi, George Tjungurrayi, Markinti Napanaangka, Jimmy Donegan, Wingu Tingima, Kitty Kantilla and many others.

    It’s interesting that so many artists begin working in what we call their doteage. But these senior painters are already accomplished in technigue, experienced in country and tradition, when they sit down with a brush. One can only speculate at the magic of this. The answer, as always, is embodied in Aboriginal law. Elders, women or men, are sufficiently ‘ready’ to make art. For example: ochre is sacred and cannot be used without the proper authority. The artist’s subject matter must have relevance to their country, and so on.

    When they work, sitting on the ground in circles with their mates, they are each facing their ‘dreaming’. They are not idly gossiping, but singing and chanting their stories. Nothing is without content or context. From the gathering and eating of food, to hunting, to ceremony to healing, dancing or painting. Everything is embodied in ancestral narrative, cultural continuity, land, law and history.

    The essays in [i]New Beginnings[/i]
    beg quoting. Ross Gibson again: “The energy and potency of ceremonial life shimmers, flicking like fire, rain, wind. The vibrating power of paint, the ancient practice enhancing spiritual power fueling creative work of every kind”.

    Emily McCulloch Childs writes: “As well as being maps of country they are tracts of moral philosophy suffused with natural sciences. They are not depictions of picturesque spaces. They are systems-diagrams for survival in a world close to collapse and they are surveys of enduring responsibility and fleeting opportunity.

    We see a system that shifts with time, with interaction, with a continuous attentiveness to every live mentality that comprises the country and takes instruction or nourishment or warning from it and takes care of it.”

    Any study of indigenous art, be it contemporary or thousands of years old, be it ochre or acrylic paint, the creators of these ‘mind’ canvases on paper or rock or body or board, are devices part of the ingenuous and genius ‘forever’, continuously fresh and evolving. Regardless of whether we understand them or not we are beyond fortunate to have been glimpses into this world of magic and beauty. (Paraphrased from [i]New Beginnings[/i]

    [i]“The whole Judeo-Christian view is that the body belongs to a fallen world and nature belongs to a fallen world, and I don’t accept any of that at all. I think the sacred is in this world, not in another world, and in the body and in nature,”[/i]

    David Malouf, The Good Weekend (1 March 2014)

    [b]To Pat Corrigan with love from me[/b]

    View artworks by[url=] Western Desert artists in our Gallery[/url]

    Purchase [url=] New Beginnings – Classic Paintings from the Corrigan Collection of 21st Century Aboriginal Art[/url]
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