Over the past few months, galleries and artists across the country have found numerous innovative ways to put art online, and each week one of the Art Guide editors has been bringing you our favourites.This week’s selection highlights some incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, working in forms from painting to glass-blowing to drag performance.
Narrative paintings from Warmun
In partnership with ACE Open, online video art platform Recess Presents currently features works by six artists from Warmun Art Centre in the East Kimberly, WA.
Warmun is home to many renowned artists, and these animated paintings by Gordon Barney, Betty Carrington, Mabel Juli, Lindsay Malay, Shirley Purdie and Mary Thomas are a rich resource of local histories and knowledge, each one narrated by the artist.
A beautiful accompanying text by Tristan Harwood explains the region’s traditions of narrative painting and the tethers of cosmology, place and kinship that interlink stories with Country, and past with present: “Paintings through time, the land, danced and spoken.”
Always was, always will be
(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should note that this exhibition contains photographs of people who have died.)
Drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collections, Always was, always will be is an online ‘pocket exhibition’ in honour of Mabo Day (3 June). This significant date marks Eddie Koiki Mabo’s fight against the legal fiction that his Country, Mer (Murray Island), was terra nullius (land belonging to no-one). This notion was successfully overturned in 1992 when Mer was returned to its traditional owners, paving the way for the Native Title Act.
The powerful works in this exhibition relate to the struggles of numerous different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups for sovereignty over their homelands. Pieces include a significant work by Kunmanara (Mumu Mike) Williams and collaborators, painted on Australia Post mailbags; depictions of Country produced as evidence of connection to the land; and the iconic photograph of former prime minister Gough Whitlam pouring local soil into the hands of activist Neville Lingiari. It’s an important reminder of the ongoing fight for First Nations autonomy and self-determination.
Kolour Me Kweer: a glittering celebration of diversity
Brought to us by Blacktown Arts, Kolour me Kweer is a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community in Blacktown and Western Sydney. Focusing on the total fabulousness of First Nations drag queens and queer performance, this series of video workshops and online performances promises everything from makeup tips to catwalk attitude – as well as a special workshop on designing a headpiece with artist Liam Benson.
In the studio with Yhonnie Scarce
Watch contemporary artist and master glassblower Yhonnie Scarce in a warm and insightful video conversation with National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) curator Myles Russell-Cook.
A Kokatha and Nukunu woman, Scarce describes how she began working with glass, and her close family connection to the Maralinga nuclear testing site in South Australia. She also discusses her moving architectural collaboration with Edition Office at the NGV, In Absence, an immersive structure hung inside with 1600 glass-blown yams. With an accompanying garden of murnong (native yams) and edible grasses, the work references traditional First Nations buildings, infrastructure, cultivation practices and smoking trees from all across Australia.
Shimmering new works by Yukultji Napangati
Yukultji Napangati’s paintings are utterly mesmerising. The winner of the prestigious 2018 Wynne Prize for landscape painting, Napangati inscribes the flowing, shimmering lines of Pintupi Country in the Western Desert with an assured poetry and strength. Her exhibition of new paintings at Utopia Arts, Shimmer, is a sublime body of work – even translated via the screen.
“On first glance, the lines in her paintings could easily be interpreted as the sandhills,” writes Utopia Arts director Christopher Hodges in the accompanying essay, “but Wilkinkarra [a vast salt lake] sometimes fills with water and the wind can set up a swell … line after line of glinting ripples set up another possibility. Lines like these are also like those that form the designs for body paint, and when the women dance long bands of parallel lines are often worked into the sand. Thus the references are layered and many.”
Shimmer is viewable online, as well as in person at Utopia Arts, Sydney.