Film maker Natalie Carey is making a documentary about Hamish Garrgarrku (formerly Karrkarrhba) and his work. We were delighted to have Natalie with us for the launch of Hamish’s first solo exhibition here at Japingka Gallery. In this interview Natalie chats with us about this video and how it has engaged the younger members of the community to learn more about Hamish and his painting.
Q. When did you first have the idea to make this video?
Natalie: It first came up last year around the time Japingka starting talking about Hamish coming down for the exhibition. I’d started running the Music and Media Centre in Maningrida. We were working very closely in collaboration with the Maningrida Arts and Culture Centre. It’s a Wiwa Project and it’s basically about recording the language and culture through arts mediums with artists and also dancers and doing things out in country and with ceremony. So it seems like a very natural partnership for us to do a story about Hamish from the beginning. We’ve covered right from when the seed was planted about the exhibition. We’ve been able to follow this artist on the whole journey all the way through from collecting the materials, to the creation of the works and then to come to the city for the first time and attend the opening of the exhibition. So it was early last year that Lucy approached me and said I think this would be a really cool thing for us to do.
Q. Have you enjoyed it Hamish?
Hamish:Yes, yes. (Laughs)
Natalie: Hamish is affiliated with the Wiwa Project and some of Hamish’s young family are part of the Wiwa crew. So its been beautiful because their training has actually taken place while they’re getting to document their family, their father, their uncle, their brother. They have different kinship relationships to Hamish but same country, same clan group, the Namundja mob. So it’s his own family who have done a lot of the filming and recording up country.
Q. Have you learnt a lot from this process?
Natalie: Yes. I’ve learnt an incredible amount. I’ve gained a lot of new insight into the art and Hamish’s particular country. I’ve worked with Jennifer (Hamish’s wife) at the Women’s Centre for a while. I’m good friends with her and her sisters, Debra and Susan. So I’ve heard stories from the women’s point of view and spent a lot of time with them. Working with Hamish is the juxtaposition again. So its the same stories but a different approach.
Q. What insights have you learnt about the art side of things?
Natalie: There’s been some amazing insights out bush. It’s one of those things that you can really only come to it you’re spending a lot of time. We’re taking a lot of time. There’s no rush. We’ll spend a whole day out bush. We’ll go on to country and do lots of talking. We do a lot of talking in Hamish’s own language. I’ve really said to Hamish I’m happy for you to speak in Kunijku because speaking in his own language there’s just so much more information. There’s just so much more ability to articulate the depth of stories.
We come back and do the translation with the boys in the media room. The Kunijku stuff really has a wow factor. It has all of this rich depth of information about particular areas and the nature in those places. For example, the translation tells what it means to approach a tree and see a painting on it before you’ve even touched it. You know this gives insight into the connection that this Bininj mob have to their country. It’s unbelievable how spiritual their relationship with the land actually is. There’s not one aspect of what these people do on country that isn’t a deeply spiritual or deeply connected act. There’s a co-existence with the country and with the land. The language Kunijku represents the secrets, the fabric of that area.
Q. Do you feel that you are at the end of film making process?
Natalie: The final version is still quite a long way off. I’m really trying to keep my hands off it as much as possible. I’d like the young guys to do most of the filming and most of the editing. It’s about empowering the community to have the ability to create their own history and content for future generations. It means that they’re not having to rely on the outsiders to come in to facilitate that. It takes a long time but it’s definitely worth it. It’s been good for us to all work together on this. It’s really engaged the younger people.
They’ve been engaged because it’s their language and their people. They really want to know what’s going on. They have a lot invested and they really want to be part of the process. Through this video the younger boys have got to learn all about Hamish’s work.
Hamish: This is a story for them. This is a story for them to remember. As for the paintings, there are many more of those to come.
Here are five rising stars in the world of Aboriginal Art that I’d like to draw your attention to.
1. Kerry McCarthy
Kerry comes from east of Darwin, near Daly River, and her work is really exciting. We’ve already had one of her exhibitions here at Japingka in 2013, and we’ve got another coming up. I’m really looking forward to that. Kerry is exciting because her artworks don’t stand still. She’s not afraid to experiment and she is technically very good. She has a great eye, and is a natural talent. Kerry was trained by her older sister, Helen McCarthy. Their work is different, but they are both highly innovative. Kerry is certainly a talent, a rising star.
2. Rosella Namok
Rosella is from the Lockhart River in Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. She takes her inspiration mainly from the country she lives in, up in the tropics. Her art is a crossover in a way. She brings an innate indigenous understanding of the land and the different seasons. She is a painter of seascapes, but in the tropics that is ever changing. Rosella’s work is so evocative. You feel like you’re there. You can feel the humidity and what she calls “the stinging rain” – you can feel the warmth in it. She is definitely on her way up as an artist. The more people who know about her, the better.
3. Sarrita King
An obvious choice for my list is 26 year old Sarrita King. This artist just goes from strength to strength to strength. She’s already had exhibitions in Berlin, Paris and Singapore. Her work is never static. She keeps bringing out new designs that are incredibly intricate. Sarrita has a great eye for composition and palette. She does really large works and really small ones too. I just find her, not only a delightful person, but a really major talent. She was taught how to paint by her father who tragically died young at the age of 41. I feel Sarrita has been inspired by her father and this comes through in the passion she brings to her work. I always look forward to seeing her art.
4. Helen McCarthy
Helen McCarthy is Kerry’s older sister. She won the Telstra People’s Choice Award which shows what a broad appeal her art has. She is innovative and not afraid to take risks. Her work never stands still. It’s always evolving. Helen is a real character, she’s an out-there kind of person who loves life. You can feel that in her artwork. Some of her black and white paintings tell the crocodile Dreaming stories and others are a mass of colour. I sometimes think the colours she chooses just wouldn’t go together but the way Helen puts things together, they just do. She is a major talent. We’ve got an exhibition of her work coming up in August and I can’t wait to see it. We haven’t seen Helen for a while but we always keep in touch with what she’s doing. I’m really excited about her work.
5. Marcia Purdie
Marcia’s very different from the other painters I’ve mentioned. She is very much carrying on a tradition of ochre painting from the Kimberley. She uses naturally occurring pigments similar to those used by Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie before her. Marcia has a great sense of composition. Her stunning aerial views of country are so powerful. It’s really good to see artists carry on a tradition like that. Marcia is not afraid to change composition, and her work has a timelessness and power to it.
If you’d like to see why I’m so excited by these artists you can follow the links here to see more of their work.
If you love Aboriginal art, you’ve probably heard the term “songlines” before.
It’s a fascinating aspect of Aboriginal art – songlines inform an artist’s cultural knowledge as well as inspiring what they paint.
To understand what a songline is you first need to know that they come from the belief in a creation era and creation ancestors.
These ancestors travelled across the country. Their journeys form a songline.
The knowledge preserved in these songlines is retold from one generation to the next in long song cycles that contain the creation story for a particular tract of land.
During initiation processes within Aboriginal culture this knowledge is passed on in a series of stages.
So the songlines define a group of people, the elements of land they live on and the traditional law they live under. The songlines define the ceremonies and obligations for people from that land.
Many of the works that we exhibit here at Japingka Gallery reference the songline of the artist’s homeland.
It is moving to come to understand the sacred nature of these references. They are ancient messages with profound meaning for the artist and the people from their homelands.
Visitors to our gallery will often feel moved by the power of the paintings on show. I think this is because they are passionate expressions of a spiritual connection to the land.
I think that is one of the important elements that separates Aboriginal art from other contemporary art. This art represents a sharing of the rich and complex connection between the artist and their subject.
I have often heard artists talk about the responsibility they feel when representing parts of a songline.
Mostly we see that artists can only paint stories and places within the songline that has been passed on to them. This is a very important value within the Aboriginal arts community.
We’ve written an article to help you understand more about songlines. You can read it here:
We’re just hanging a beautiful new exhibition from the Yinjaa-Barni artists. These fine painters operate out of Roebourne in the Pilbara and the group exhibit here at Japingka about every eighteen months or so.
The Yinjaa-Barni artists have their own Art Centre right in the town of Roebourne. The artists are all people who live in the region, so their art is very particular to their part of the Pilbara.
There are about 8 to 12 artists in the art collective. The senior artists have been painting in the group for about 10 years. They’re also bringing along the younger generation, and usually we get 2 or 3 new artists appearing in each exhibition.
It’s been a great journey for Roebourne artists to find their own voice and to find the stories that intrigue and inspire them. A lot of their stories come from the landscape, the immediate country, how it re-generates, what water does in that climate, even what it’s like as a dry landscape.
“Colours Through the Rocks” is a common title that looks at those incredible colours deep within the fractured rocks in the Pilbara. It’s a real visual element that’s very particular to their country. The artists are originally from the traditional lands out on the Fortescue River, so they’re from quite well-watered parts of the Pilbara. They now live closer to the coast.
This exhibition is called, The Marrga – Creating the Pilbara and many of the stories relate to creation times. Particularly, the artist Marlene Harold talks about creation times in her work. She talks about a time in the beginning when the world was soft and the ancestors were living on the land. There was smoke, smoke from their fires, and just the kind of gentle, steamy air of a world that was still soft. Out of that is created the entire world and landscape that people have come to know.
These images from Marlene Harold are fantastic creation stories with a very particular look. They’re not at all like any other aboriginal artists’ work. Some people find it more similar to impressionist landscapes because they’re gorgeously soft. You can see the grass and the particles of steam and the smoke drifting over the landscape. It’s not the Pilbara as it is now. She is painting the Pilbara as it was being created by Yindji-Barndi ancestral beings.
There’s a really distinct painting of a lighthouse in this exhibition. Clifton Mack has adopted this image from Jarman Island, off the coast outside Karratha. There’s a lighthouse there; a historical site and it’s something Clifton has previously painted. He constructs the image out of painting elements from Aboriginal art. The whole painting is constructed out of dots and dashes and contrasting shapes that are more what we think of when an Aboriginal artist creates their landscape. In this painting, Clifton has applied that way of seeing to a physical building. It sits there with its patterning that’s so typical of Aboriginal painters. You can see that style of representation all over the sea, all over the building, all over the little rocky island. It’s a quite extraordinary image.
Clifton is the most experienced painter in the group and he has won a number of awards. I think Clifton is the best known. He’s probably the most collectible, maybe just ahead of Marlene Harold. He sometimes paints very large-scale. This lighthouse painting is maybe only 90 cm squared. Some of his paintings are over 2 meters across. Clifton is also quite varied in the subjects he paints.
His work always that signature style of mark making. It’s almost like breaking the subject down to its component parts, like its molecules and its building blocks and all its components. The whole thing is made out of these components, which is an absolutely indigenous way of looking at things; it’s not at all our Western way of looking at things.
I think people will be interested in this exhibition because it’s so varied. The artists all have their own individual stylistic approaches. The stories are about the Pilbara and their country, but the colours and the styles and the way they make the paintings are all different. I think it’s a wonderful, diverse series of paintings from a group of artists who all work in the same community.
This may be the sixth exhibition that Yinjaa-Barni artists have put on Japingka Gallery. We see new artists come through who develop really strong imagery. For example, one painting by Aileen Sandy has a red grid pattern as a way of representing the rock structure. You would almost feel like it’s a engineering drawing or geological design of how the rocks are put together.
She has come out in the last couple of exhibitions with some extraordinary paintings. There’s always something surprising. I think overall the feel of this exhibition is actually quite soft. It has a kind of toned down softness to it which is more pronounced than maybe even earlier exhibitions by this group.
We tend to think of the Pilbara for its harshness, for its extremes, for its arid and very rocky terrain. The Yinjaa-Barni approach shows you another way of thinking about that place. These Yinjaa-Barni stories reflect on a softer side, like the seeds that come from the trees and flowers and the regrowth of the country after rain. These paintings are all very affectionate and engaged ways of looking at the Pilbara country. It’s a unique perspective from these indigenous painters who live there.
The Marrga – Creating the Pilbara opens in Gallery 1 on 13 February. I hope to see you there.
Pintupi artists Monica Napaltjarri and Narpulla Scobie have painted some beautiful small works which have just recently arrived at the gallery. Monica Napaltjarri uses traditional iconography of the Western Desert and her
work features a restrained palette based around earth colours. Her subject matter relates to ancestral country from her grandmother and women’s sacred sites.
Narpulla Scobie was amongst the first of the Western Desert women artists to start painting in her own right. Her paintings focus on women’s ceremonies and the body painting rituals that the women undertake. Both these artists have made small and intimate paintings, measuring 60 x 46 cm and 60 x 30 cm, which are collectable and affordable, presenting great examples of the artistic style from the Kintore region. Some examples of these artists’ works can be found on our Affordable Art page – click on the link to see more.
The weather is breaking along the north Queensland coast and the Wet season is on its way. Rosella Namok has captured some of the rainy season in Cairns in a new series of paintings that have just arrived at Japingka Gallery. Titles like ‘Late Afternoon – Stinging Rain’ and ‘Salmon Season – Shower Rain’ give a sense of how the time of day and the light effect the way the artist has developed these artworks.
These paintings are luminous with colour and heavy with the sense of impending rainstorm. Rosella Namok has been a firm favourite with buyers, flowing from her November 2013 exhibition at Japingka Gallery, entitled Naagchi Ngumu’luugku – I Come from Here – Lockhart River, Cape York.
Rosella has enjoyed success with her art career both nationally and internationally, with over 30 exhibitions and representation in all major Australian public galleries. Two of her artworks were commissioned in 2013 to become remarkable backdrops for the performance of Stravinsky’s ballet the ‘Rite of Spring’ in the USA. Her dramatic large scale paintings lend themselves beautifully to this type of impressive display.
We look forward to seeing more of Rosella’s artworks in the gallery. See some of the new paintings here.
It’s not surprising that the contemporary Aboriginal art movement bought us a number of artists who passionately follow astronomical themes in their painting.
It’s clear that historically Aboriginal people took a lot of notice of the stars. As nomads they used astronomy to plan many of their activities. Decisions such as the direction to travel, when to travel and times for hunting were influenced by the stars. Astronomy was also the inspiration for important stories across many tribal groups.
This next exhibition Warlpiri Star Gazers opens in Gallery1 from 21 November to 23 December and showcases some of the artists who draw on the stars for their inspiration.
Perhaps the best known of these is the Warlpiri artist Alma Nungarrayi Granites. Alma is known for her paintings of the Seven Sisters Dreaming.
Seven Sister Dreaming Story
These paintings tell of how the ancestral Napaljarri sisters formed in the star cluster known as the Pleiades.The Pleiades are seven women who are depicted in this Jukurrpa carrying the Jampijinpa man Wardilyka. This man is in love with the Napaljarri-warnu and who is represented in the Orion’s Belt cluster of stars. Jukurra-jukurra, the morning star, is a Jakamarra man who is also in love with the seven Napaljarri sisters. In paintings he is often shown chasing them across the night sky. In a final attempt to escape from the Jakamarra, the Napaljarri-warnu turned themselves into fire and ascended to the heavens to become stars.
Other artists represented in our Warlpiri Star Gazers exhibition include; Christine Napanangka Michaels, Murdie Nampijinpa Morris, Nola Napangardi Wilson Fisher, Valerie Napurrurla Morris, Stephanie Napurrurla Nelson, Walter Jangala Brown and many others.
It’s a stunning collection and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Read more: Warlpiri Star Gazers
We have an exhibition of works by Linda Syddick Napaltjarri coming up so I thought it might be interesting to talk a little about her life.
Linda was born in 1937. She is a Pintupi woman from Lake MacKay in the Gibson Desert in Western Australia. Linda’s Aboriginal name is Tjunkiya Wukula Napaltjarri. She lived a traditional nomadic life with her people until the age of about eight. At this time her family walked out of the desert and decided to settle at the Lutheran Mission at Haasts Bluff in the Northern Territory.
Linda’s father was killed when she was young. Her mother later married artist Shorty Lungkarta Tjungarrayi. His work was a significant influence on Linda’s painting. Linda married several times, and still uses the family name of her second husband Musty Syddick (Cedick).
Linda Syddick Napaltjarri collects the stories from her life into a series of images that represent the major turning points in her journey. One such incident was the first contact experience when her family group first encountered white people. Linda Syddick Napaltjarri was an eight year old child at the time and it was an memorable event in her life.
She tells the story of how a traditional medicine man followed with their party first encountered a windmill at Mt Liebig. While Linda’s adoptive father, Shorty Lankata Tjungurrayi, had contact with white settlers before, most of the party had not.
Linda Syddick Napaltjarri recounts how the witchdoctor drew on bush magic to quell the fierce windmill that he saw in the early morning. Looking more like a demonic spirit, the windmill proved to be immune the old witchdoctor’s magic. It was Linda’s father who finally was able to persuade the old man that the machine was not an evil spirit.
This story and other stories of desert survival are direct from the voice of someone who was there at those first encounters. Linda Syddick Napaltjarri draws on metaphysical stories she later learned in the mission settlements and fused them with her memories of the desert and Tingari Creation events.
Linda first exhibited her work in Alice Springs in 1991. Her work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Linda’s work has been shown at Japingka in four previous exhibitions.
We are delighted to be exhibiting her work in Gallery 2 from 21 November – 23 December 2014.
We are fascinated to learn about how aboriginal art resonates with scientific thinkers.
For several years biochemist Professor Nadia Rosenthal has been collecting aboriginal art and hanging it in her workplace, the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University.
Recently we got to sit down with her and ask about how these paintings contribute to the development of a workplace culture. Here is a summary of the key benefits.
Aboriginal Art Can Promote Communication
The Institute has 250 scientists and staff and Nadia believes that the paintings help with communication by keeping people talking to each other.
Aboriginal Art Can Create Attractive Workspaces
Nadia talks about the value of having beautiful things in the workplace and how much scientific workplaces are changing.
Nadia says, “These days, we’re much more sensitive to the fact that people are likely to come to work and stay at work if it’s actually a nice place to spend some time.”
Aboriginal Art Can Reinforce Australian Identity
The Institute attracts visitors from all over the world. The aboriginal art on the walls of the Institute helps define it as an Australian place.
You can read more about the role of art in Nadia’s workplace culture in this article Aboriginal Art and a Workplace Culture of Creativity.
Knowledge of the deep solar system and local Indigenous knowledge of the stars are fused in the current exhibition Shared Sky at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University, open until 2nd November. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Yamaji Art Centre, Geraldton, the international SKA Organisation; SKA-South Africa; SKA-Australia and the First People Centre, Bethesda Arts Centre, Nieu Bethesda, South Africa.
The exhibition focuses on the shared knowledge of the Square Kilometre radio telescope project, hosted in Australia and South Africa. It explores the traditional stories of Indigenous people from both regions of these continents, whose ancient knowledge of astronomy is deeply embedded in their cultures.
Astronomy was an important source of knowledge for Aboriginal people across the Australian continent. It is used in measuring the seasons and the calendar, for the cycles of localised food sources, and for directions by night. The knowledge of astronomy is embedded in the ancient Law stories carried by Aboriginal people over vast periods of time.
The Warlpiri people of the Tanami Desert include families who are custodians of the Jukurrpa or Dreamtime Law story of the Seven Sisters, the Pleaides. This knowledge is shared over a wide territory and by many different language groups. Artists from the Central Desert communities of Nirripi and Yuendumu have long painted these stories, and in more recent times have exhibited contemporary visions of the Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming) at their exhibitions at Japingka Gallery.
To see the artists’ work of these fascinating stories visit the exhibition page or view the exhibition live at Japingka Gallery from 21 November to 23 December 2014.