Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Brisbane's GoMa "My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia"

I see from Will Owen's blog (My Country: I Still Call Australia Home @ GoMA) that the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art has a rather spectacular exhibition of Aboriginal art running until 7 October. This is an example of some of the work.goma13-arnhem

While I have been interested in Aboriginal art for quite a long time and have seen some exhibitions, I don't have a clear picture in my mind of all the patterns.   Certainly, I have seen some beautiful work. I do wonder some time, however, about the extent to which to which the art risks becoming too stylised, too stereotyped, too locked in rigid cultural forms.

I mention this because a few years back I went to an exhibition of current Aboriginal art from NSW selected from the best pieces entered in a competition. It was, I thought, very ordinary, locked into standard forms but without that freshness that marks the best of the Aboriginal art that I have seen.

I commend Will's post to you.


Anonymous said...

Will Owen is an absolute wonder, I've always thought. I was only thinking of him the other day when there was a brief mention of one of our younger artists shortly to be exhibited at the Kluge-Ruhe in Virginia - which I think is fairly close to Will's home base. Maybe Samantha Hobson? - can't find the SMH reference at the moment.

Jim, it is difficult to place western, European, 'values of progress' over something as long-lived as Aboriginal culture. I mean, when you say something like "becoming too stylised, too stereotyped, too locked in rigid cultural forms" you have to appreciate that you are critiquing a culture of possibly 60,000 years from a perspective of, at the most generous, 2,000. And even then I'd reply - 'haystacks'.

It does not compute. And more importantly, the "rigid, stylised, cultural forms" are maybe (or should that be precisely?) what is important for the old to convey to the young.

Me, I think they are alive, and are important, and are worth celebrating, in whatever form the younger generation chooses to accept, and pass on, the old knowledge, old perspective.

And yes, I am invested. You may need more bookshelves but I can promise you I need even more walls for the paintings I care for.


ps and if you want sublime, look for yet another 'old one' who passed away just last weekend - Dorother Napangardi - with apologies, and much respect.

Jim Belshaw said...

He is, isn't here! Later I may bring this comment up illustrated by a work by Dorother Napangardi.

Don't get me wrong. I love the art. But there is such a thing as the deadhand of the past. To the best of the Northern artists, their culture is alive, an informing thing. But culture survives because it is alive and is reinterpreted. Aboriginal culture changed over time.

I wonder if Aboriginal people themselves and the broader community aren't guilty of creating a new frozen ghetto? When I looked at the paintings in the exhibition I was referring too, I felt no sense of freshness. They were, bluntly, pedestrian.

Maybe I'm wrong?

Anonymous said...


My comment is not worthy of being 'front paged' - it is just my own ill-informed 'feeling' about the pleasure I get as an 'audience' for this vibrant culture. I agree with your comments, I love the transmission of (what we are allowed to see of) ancient culture into new.

That mention I made of the Kluge-Ruhe: what I'd actually read about was this:

"Congratulations also to RICARDO IDAGI who has been awarded the Australia Council for the Arts' Kluge-Ruhe Artist Residency at the University of Virginia. Ricardo will take up his residency for the period of September - October 2015"

- taken from Vivian Anderson Gallery notes.

And then, this a.m. there was a lovely article in the SMH (I'm sure I'm right this time!) about the continuing French interest in our indigenous artists:

- I particularly loved the last sentence in this article.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. I will spare your blushes with the comment! Haven't followed up the last link yet.