Adelaide’s Time »Directory of Aboriginal Art
What is increasingly recognized as Australia’s premier indigenous art event, the Tarnanthi Festival in Adelaide, has just opened. How does that compare to the annual Telstra NATSIAA and the occasional Triennale at the National Gallery? Well, more importantly, he selects artists and then commissions new work from them. This can be done thanks to the munificence of BHP – who announced an additional 3 years of support to the one they have already given since the first event in 2015. So Tarnanthi is not just showing art that already exists – from this year for the NATSIAA, and up to five years for the Triennale erratique. It’s about encouraging novelty and innovation, and everyone gets paid for their efforts – even at the Art Fair, where art centers get 100% of their investment.
And the results? Well, currently not being able to travel to South Australia, it’s hard to be absolutely sure – especially as the trend towards parochialism, no doubt encouraged by the whole COVID affair. , meant the Art Gallery of SA only offered a press preview to residents, and a Zoom opening that seriously missed the highlights of the last one I attended, when Yolngu dancers and musicians from Arnhemland lit up the night.
But parochialism has its value, as Liberal Prime Minister Steven Marshall wowed his audience by announcing something that is nowhere to be seen on the web as of this writing – that the South African government had tabled a law for a First Nations voice in Parliament! Of course, it’s a little easier at the state level than changing the national constitution. But, damn it, let’s give credit where credit is due.
And to match, relying on the web, Tarnanthi at the Gallery seems to have some amazing pieces that justify curator Nici Cumpston’s powers of selection and encouragement. Much has been done in advertising the major original works of John Prince Siddon of Mangkaja and Queen mingkulpa of the Iwantja Art Center, Kaylene Whiskey. But, I have to say, I feel like I’ve been exposed, with great pleasure, to their works before – they didn’t take Tarnanthi’s opportunity to go wild. As Nyunmiti Burton d’Amata and Spinifex man Timo Hogan both pushed their boats out of the desert.
The Burton in the series seems to have absorbed much of the detail one would expect from a Tjungkara Ken ‘Seven sisters dreaming ‘ work and mixed it with Barbara Moore’s expressionist brush. It is a stunner. Hogan simply broadened his horizons – always (of course) painting Baker Lake, the salt marsh of which he inherited the responsibility and the stories of his father. But this time, it pushes its complexities and limits to three two-meter panels. “A great painting for a great story,” enthused Cumpston.
In the far north of South Africa, the art centers of Tjungu Palya and Ninuku have been encouraged to make large collaborative works. But, elsewhere, Cumpston tells me that she encourages work that is “not always honored.” And to stimulate that mix, she put together a collector’s exhibit she called “Keepers of Culture” – containers of all kinds and paintings that reflect what I suspect to be primarily the female side of mainstream culture. The range goes from the first barks of Bandaka Mununggurr to the woven wire narbongs of Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Sonya Rankine gets a solo exhibition of Ngarrindjeri baskets. Other ‘thoughtless trifles’ that fly off their pedestals are the whisper of Warringarri birds – all carved from boab nuts, and Irrunytju’s insane recycling of discarded car sumps – transforming them again in cars; miniature cars, each with its own story.
Works on paper are also often overlooked – which is why Cumpston has amassed the works of less than 65 new Tiwi artists from the three island art centers – including works by Bede Tungatalum, Timothy Cook, Lorna Kantilla and no less than ten Puruntatameris.
In total, there are 27 projects and 189 artists in the art gallery, along with 190 other artists elsewhere in the city and 22 exhibitions in the state. The sight in the city that I would head to first is “The beginnings of Balgo” at the SA Museum. A labor of love by curator John Carty, it celebrates Warlayirti Artists’ 40th anniversary in Balgo, using the fortuitous 2019 discovery of a discarded shipping container filled with the musty art that bloomed there for the first time in 1982. As so often happens, when the canvases were kept, they inspired today’s artists to come out of the bush and reflect on their ancestors’ representation of this newly adopted country – for their origins were as far away as Kiwirrkurra. A 2020 artwork by Eva Nagomarra has the distinct flavor of the late Wimmitji – dots and muted colors. A book will follow.
In the meantime, all the fun of the Fair is online only this year this weekend. And my money is being squeezed for the Mangkaja “booth” where Tarnanthi superstar John Prince Siddon has a job that should end up in the Washington State Prime Minister’s office – mocking the efforts of Clive Palmer and Prime Minister Morrison for breaking down state borders, and praising the steadfast Mark McGowan. Oddly enough, I note the absence of three other top art centers – Papunya Tula, Warringarri and Iwantja – but that shouldn’t deprive anyone of a quality range from woven work costing just a hundred dollars to canvases in the thousands. . Take a look at Warmun. Just as art crosses generations at Balgo, here the daughter of the great Rover Thomas, Jane Yalunga, tries out a work “Cyclone Tracy” which contains motifs her father made his own.
Artist: Nici Cumpston, John Prince Siddon, Kaylene Whiskey, Nyunmiti Burton, Timo Hogan, Tjungkara Ken, Barbara Moore, Bandaka Mununggurr, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Sonya Rankine, Bede Tungatalum, Timothy Cook, Lorna Kantilla, Eva Nagomarra, Wimmitji, Rover Thomas, Jane Yalunga,
Art Fair, Australia, Blog, Book, Event, Exhibition, Feature, Festival, Industry, News,
Balgo Beginnings, Bandaka Mununggurr, Barbara Moore, bede tungatalum, BHP, Eva Nagomarra, jane yalunga, Jeremy Eccles, John Carty, John Prince Siddon, Kaylene Whiskey, lorna kantilla, lorraine connelly-northey, nici cumpston, nici cumpston, Sonya Rankine, Steven Marshall, Tarnanthi Festival, Timo Hogan, Timothy Cook, Tjungkara Ken, Voice to Parliament, Wimmitji,
Art Gallery of South Australia,