Touring exhibitions play a pivotal role in connecting the arts community. They provide access to collections and permit collaboration between cultural bodies, ensure access to a broader audience and encourage artistic dialogue with our neighbours. When mandatory restrictions prevented these shows from travelling from place to place, they were forced to close temporarily; some sought new modes of viewing through the digital realm, others remained in storage. With restrictive measures easing, most art galleries and institutions have re-opened to the public; once again allowing us to physically engage with art; strengthening connectivity, and creating an inclusive cultural landscape.
In our second instalment of such exhibitions, we focus on the significance of contemporary Indigenous culture and art practices in addressing, and redressing the past, present and future, in shows previously published in Art Almanac’s editorial and What’s On guide – add them to your arts calendar.
‘Void’ explores the multiple ways in which contemporary Aboriginal artists visually express the unknown as space, time and landscape through sculpture, ceramics, textiles, painting, drawing, photography and video. ‘Indigenous artists are innovative, constantly changing and finding new ways to articulate old ways,’ explains curator Emily McDaniel, from the Kalari Clan of the Wiradjuri nation in central New South Wales. ‘These artists are engaging with art as a visual and a metaphorical means to articulate the complexity of their experiences.’
Artists such as Pepai Jangala Carroll, Jonathan Jones, Mabel Juli, John Mawurndjul AM, Hayley Millar-Baker, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Rusty Peters, Doreen Reid Nakamarra, Andy Snelgar, Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher AO, Freddie Timms, James Tylor, Jennifer Wurrkidj, and Josephine Wurrkidj, do not merely define the void as denoting vacancy; instead, they utilise form to represent the
‘The void is a politicised space that cannot be defined as simply an absence or a presence. It is the space between distinct worldviews, which implicates our ways of seeing, understanding and knowing. As a spatial notion, the void holds misconceptions of vacuity and emptiness; a mark of the unseen, the unknown or the undefined. In ‘Void’, this notion stands in opposition to the reality of each artist’s understanding; that the void is always occupied by meaning and contains personal, historical and ancestral significance,’ writes McDaniel in the show’s accompanying catalogue essay. She concludes, ‘The void is a complex space of exclusion and inclusion, definition and deliberate ambiguity. But as these artists demonstrate, the void is always lived upon, navigated and known even as it remains unseen, unknown and undefined.’
Educational and public programming is a key feature of the exhibition and tour, drawing on resources and research produced through the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at UTS, in collaboration with the exhibition’s curator. ‘Void’ is developed in conjunction with UTS Gallery and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, and presented nationally by Museums & Galleries of NSW. The exhibition is on show at Canberra Museum and Art Gallery until 1 August 2020; followed by Geraldton Regional Art Gallery in Western Australia from 22 August to 26 September 2020, before travelling to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland until late 2021.
Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression
‘Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression’ celebrates 20 years of printmaking at Yirrkala Print Space, in the Baku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in Northeast Arnhem Land; proving that this ancient craft has not only survived through the ages, but prospered. Curated by Annie Studd, this exhibition showcases the Yolngu respect for clan and country, with many prints relating to the creation stories and Law as passed on by ancestors, highlighting the importance of kinship and family. With works from 50 artists, ‘Balnhdhurr’ takes the viewer on a visual journey, creating a platform for meaningful dialogue between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people. It is a coming together of cultures and time, where audiences have the chance to learn of the Yolngu’s strong tradition in artwork and how their skills, talent and creativity have translated to printmaking. Pieces in this exhibition also reveal the significant impact the introduction of bright acrylics had on artists, which allowed them to explore a whole new genre of artistic storytelling.
The exhibition title, ‘Balnhdhurr’, translates to a mark made as a sign for people to follow – where one group goes ahead but wants to leave a message for those behind. An impression is scratched into the ground directing the future viewer to follow the right path. In this way, printmaking provides a medium for passing on knowledge to younger generations, to keep culture and history and identity alive and strong, while at the same time creating a conversation between the Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land and the national and international community.
With over 800 editions by 137 artists produced through the studio since it began in 1995, Yirrkala Print Space has become an integral and vital component of the community. Yirrkala Print Space Artists include: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Marrnyula Mununggurr, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Gaymala Yunupingu, Naminapu Maymuru-White, Manunu Wunungmurra, Dundiwuy Wunungmurra, Barrupu Yunupingu, Nongirrnga Marawili, Djambawa Marawili, Gulumbu Yunupingu, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Gawirrin Gumana, Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Mulkun Wirrpanda, Gundimulk Wanambi, Djerrkngu Marika, Nyangungu Marawili, Dhunhdhunga Mununggurr, Munuy’ngu Marika, Burrthi Marika, Milika Marika, Djakala Wurramarrba, Muluyulk#2 Marika, Bulmirri Yunupingu, Gunybi Ganambarr, Banduk Marika, Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Naminuapu#2 Maymuru, Naminapu#1 Maymuru-White, Barrupu Yunupingu, Laklak#2 Ganambarr, Boliny Wanambi, Nawurapu Wunungmurra, Yalmakany Marawili, Mikey Gurruwiwi, Ishmael Marika, Djuwakan#2 Marika, Dhalmula Burarrwanga, Gandhurrminy Yunupingu, Barrata Marika, Gurmarrwuy Yunupingu, Malaluba Gumana, Djalinda Yunupingu, Wukun Wanambi, Garawan Wanambi and Djirrirra Wunungmurra.
Utilising the digital as an inclusive and dynamic way to introduce visitors to ‘Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression’, a free smartphone app has been developed to accompany the exhibition. The app features audio descriptions of selected works, a video tour of Miwatj country and educational activities – providing a more in-depth interaction with the history and context of Yirrkala Print Studio, and engagement with the artists, artworks, Yolgnu language and culture. An Artback NT touring exhibition since 2017, ‘Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression’ will make its final stop at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre in Northern Territory from 31 July to 12 September 2020.
Manggan – gather, gathers, gathering
Located in Far North Queensland, the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre represents artists from nine Traditional Owner groups – the Nywaigi, Gugu Badhun, Warrgamay, Warungnu, Bandjin, Girramay, Gulnay, Jirrbal and Djiru people. ‘Manggan – gather, gathers, gathering’ brings together selected cultural objects drawn from the South Australian Museum collection, gathered from the Girringun region, and the work of 19 of these artists who transform traditional stories and culture into contemporary, visual images and designs using diverse media including painting, carving, ceramics, photographs and film; as well as textiles such as Jawun – a basket weaving style involving two horn-like pointed corners, unique to the region.
A traditional Jawun was utilised by the owner for a variety of purposes, including to carry babies, bush foods, and tools; catching fish; leaching toxins from poisonous plants; and mortuary purposes. They were also valuable objects that could be traded between communities.
‘One of my Jawun is included in this show. Beside the really beautiful Jawun which has been loaned from the South Australian Museum, my Jawun pales in comparison. Honed by thousands of years of craftsmanship, the old basket embodies the perfection of skill at the hand of the maker who learned their knowledge as a kind of apprenticeship. These baskets are not easy to make, and great skill is required to achieve such perfection. Despite its beauty of form and appearance, the use of the Jawun was not hindered from being used for menial tasks such as carrying heavy burdens or being exposed to the elements. Used in a traditional manner, the Jawun had a life expectancy of some two to three years. The one we see in this exhibition is over a hundred years old,’ said Abe Muriata, weaver and Girramay Traditional Owner from the Cardwell Range area.
The audience is welcomed by two large sculptures, standing at almost two metres high, with direct reference to the traditional Bagu form – a fire-making implement, found throughout the exhibition. The Bagu is an anthropomorphic representation of the fire creation spirit Jiggabunah, who would throw the Jiman (firesticks) across the sky and a trail of fire would follow, displayed in the night sky as shooting stars. While the contemporary Bagu can be made from any material, a number of the artists continue to paint their sculptures with traditional patterns, with permission, which, for Traditional Owners, are a form of identity and quite specific to different areas of the rainforest country. These objects were an important part of daily life for previous generations; fire was an essential commodity used for cooking, warmth, making traditional weapons, preserving and for ceremonies. It also provided a central point for social interaction and activities.
Artists include Daniel Beeron, George Beeron, Maureen Beeron, Theresa Beeron, Nancy Cowan, Nephi Denham, Sandra Escott, Tonya Grant, Judith Henry, Clarence Kinjun, Doris Kinjun, Abe Muriata, Alison Murray, Debra Murray, Emily Murray, John Murray, Ninney Murray, Sally Murray, and Eileen Tep.
In 2017 and 2018, the exhibition toured to regional galleries in Queensland, with New South Wales and Victoria hosting in 2019. Visiting South Australia in 2020, ‘Manggan – gather, gathers, gathering’ is currently on show at Nautilus Arts Centre until September, before heading to Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in New South Wales and Caboolture Regional Gallery in Queensland.
Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality
‘that land… I still got it on my mind.’ – Vincent Lingiari
‘Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality’ looks at the birth of Australia’s national land rights movement, exploring notions of identity, home, community and Country connected to the Gurindji Walk-Off.
In 1966, Gurindji tribal elder Vincent Lingiari led a landmark event that inspired national change. Two hundred Aboriginal stockmen were refused proper pay and decent working conditions at the Wave Hill cattle station located on traditional Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Vincent Lingiari led them in an industrial strike that became a seven-year act of self-determination; shifting to a more fundamental request – that traditional Gurindji lands be returned.
Curated by Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra artist/curator and participating artist Brenda L Croft, in collaboration with the Kalkaringi community, ‘Still in my mind’ shines a spotlight on this important chapter of history. Telling the story of strength and resilience from diverse, yet interlinked, Indigenous perspectives through photographs, a multi-channel video installation, newly commissioned history paintings, contemporary and historical prints and drawings, textiles and found objects, digital platforms and archives.
The exhibition has three major components;
An experimental work by Croft comprising an immersive video installation, incorporating photo-media and sound, alongside prints and
installations of found objects, centre on the act of walking the ‘Gurindji Walk-Off’ track and other sites associated with Croft’s father’s journey as a member of the Stolen Generations; challenging the context of a single geographical location denoting ‘home’.
New work from Karungkarni artists, including significant Gurindji history works on canvas, created during site visits and artists’ camps as
well as textiles, prints and carvings, and significant materials from private and public archives from the early 20th century to the present, comprising historical still and moving images, oral recordings and repatriated cultural material and objects.
Artists include Croft, Jimmy Wavehill Ngawanyja Japalyi, Michael George ‘Nutwood’ Tulngayarri Japalyi, Pauline Ryan Kilngarri Namija, Leah Leaman Yinpingali Namija, Ena Oscar Majapula Nanaku, Violet Wadrill Nanaku, Sarah Oscar Yanyjingali Nanaku, Connie Mosquito Ngarmeiye Nangala, Biddy Wavehill Yamawurr Nangala, Serena Donald Narrpingali Nimarra, and Rachael Morris Namitja.
Developed in partnership between UNSW Galleries, UQ Art Museum and Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation, since 2018, ‘Still on my mind’ has toured Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. Next stop, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in New South Wales from 11 July to 23 August 2020 with Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory scheduled for 2021.
Julie Dowling: Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret)
Julie Dowling has a big secret, and it isn’t pretty. Dowling is a First Nations Badimaya/Yamatji/Widi from the Midwest of Western Australia, whose solo exhibition, ‘Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret)’, explores the theme of slavery and poverty in Australia for First Nations peoples, both in past centuries and in current Australian society.
Curated by Charmaine Green, the exhibition presents a series of highly decorated figurative artworks that will draw in and engage the viewer. Working in a realist style, Dowling draws on diverse traditions including European portraiture and Christian icons, mural painting, dotting and Indigenous Australian iconography. Her works are strongly political; commenting on deep-seated injustices and challenging the myth that First Nations peoples are indolent and a drain on society. The beauty presented in the works becomes a metaphor for the resilience and wisdom of First Nations peoples to overcome the narrow narrative that has mythologised colonisation.
‘Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret)’ is semi-autobiographical, referencing her own family as well as other First Nation individuals marked as ‘Unknown’ from international photographic archives. She investigates their ongoing struggle for compensation for stolen wages and reparations for slavery. ‘An amnesia exists whereby Australian agriculture and other primary industries were founded on the slavery of its first peoples. The works in Dowling’s exhibition speak of these atrocities and to show how beautifully resilient her people are despite this.’ – Carol Dowling, twin sister of Julie Dowling.
This ART ON THE MOVE touring exhibition has been on display in Western Australia since 2018. It is currently on show at Collie Art Gallery until 16 August, before heading to Bunbury Regional Art Gallery from 5 September to 29 November 2020.