Lorna Fencer’s Yam Dreaming In Major Paris Exhibition

I’m very excited about a new Paris exhibition Poetry of the Yam. It’s featuring the colourful works of Lorna Fencer and the yam is the main story behind many of Lorna’s paintings. In this exhibition Lorna’s role as a custodian for a yam dreaming story within her Walrpiri culture is being set alongside some yam masks from New Guinea. While it might sound an unusual combination, the drawing together of these two art forms is quite stunning.

Lorna’s work in this exhibition is putting together a significant story from Australia, as the yam was so important for survival of Lorna’s people. What she’s painting is the dreaming stories of how the ancestors created the yam, how they drew it out of the earth, how there was, later, custodial battles between different groups of ancestors over different types of yam dreaming stories. It’s a great legendary, or mythological, history that belongs to Lorna Fencer’s people.

Similarly, the masks from New Guinea are spirit people related to the yam and the equivalent idea of a dreaming. In these works the actual yams have a kind of human or spirit face that is expressed in the mask.

Ian and I spent 8 years working very closely with Lorna Fencer. We visited her in her community. She came and visited us here in Fremantle and painted many paintings while we were doing workshops with her. She came with family members. We traveled all across Australia visiting exhibitions that we put on in conjunction with Lorna and galleries in Sydney and Melbourne and Darwin.

It was a great experience to be alongside Lorna when she saw all her paintings finally up on a gallery wall. They were very big impact paintings. Lorna would often sing or tell the story of those yam dreaming stories, addressing the paintings rather than addressing anyone else. Seeing Lorna have this conversation with her paintings gave me a little lead into the cultural world where her paintings came from.

Lorna passed away in 2006, and her paintings, we think, are amongst the most significant works coming from Walpiri artists in that huge area of the Tanami Desert in central Australia.

We have some wonderful works of Lorna’s here at Japingka, but it’s just great to have Lorna’s work celebrated on the international art stage. I’m so pleased that people in Paris will see her work during a major art festival which focuses on the work of indigenous people. For Lorna to be front and central as part of that event, I think, is really fitting and really exciting for us.

The curator of the Poetry of the Yam is Didier Zanette and you can read his interview about this exhibition and his passion for Pacific indigenous art.

Link: Poetry of the Yam – An Interview with Didier Zanette



National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards NATSIAA 2014 Japingka 2

Stunning Entries in the 2014 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards NATSIAA 2014 Japingka 2

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) 2014. Image by Japingka Gallery.

This years Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards were just fantastic.

I haven’t been to the Awards in five years. I used to go every year, but I became disillusioned and decided not to go anymore.

For me it had become more of a political competition. It seemed to matter who was the most politically correct rather than keeping the sole focus on the stardard of art. For me it’s always been about the art and the culture. That’s the way we’ve always focused our interest.

The Awards just seemed to lose their way for a while. In the last one I saw five years ago, the political inviting was so evident in what was up on the walls. It was a weak show. A lot of people hadn’t bothered even entering. The Awards as they were then no longer inspired me.

It used to be such an exciting event. The first few years were absolutely staggering. The quality and the depth of the artwork just inspired everyone. Everyone who was anyone went there. Over the years it became more political and it became about whether the work was produced by an art center or through an agent or who that agent was. It just lost its direction and I think it was very evident in the standard of work.

This time, while it hasn’t completely put all those problems behind it, they are certainly making good progress. Organisers have narrowed the field down so instead of having a couple of hundred artworks, they’ve come down to under a hundred. That in itself helped fine tune the exhibition and the standard this year was very high.

It’s always going to vary from year to year because of who the judges are, and they’ll all have their own take on what they’d like and what deserves a guernsey. There were some good judges this year and I think it was a good show. I found it was inspiring again.

There was a bit of a buzz, and I think in some ways what was even more a new development over the last few years is the salon de refuse. This is where they had all the other artworks that didn’t quite make it into the finals category. That work was a very high standard. They were absolutely stunning. Why some of them didn’t make it, I don’t know. It’s something you would have to ask the judges.

So yes, it was a tight show and I’d certainly go back again. My congratulations go to the organisers for steering the Awards in such a positive direction.

I’d like to see the politics ironed out even more. I think it’s a shame that a lot of quality artists don’t even bother putting in entries. I think that means they’ve lost a little bit, and maybe quite a lot. Some of the best artists aren’t there and I do think that the Awards and the artists themselves suffer a bit because of that.



Bardon Article 1

New Article about the Influence of Geoffrey Bardon

Geoffrey Bardon was an Australian school teacher who had a significant part to play in the development of the Western Desert aboriginal art movement.

We have recently published a new article that looks at his work: The Early Influence of Geoffrey Bardon on Aboriginal Art

The Influence of Geoffrey Bardon



David Gulpilil in Charlie's Country

Here’s An Excellent Review For Charlie’s Country


David Gulpilil in Charlie's CountryIt’s wonderful when a highly skilled director like Rolf de Heer takes the risks that he does to make a film that explores another layer of the complex story of being aboriginal in Australia.

You’d think it would be so much easier to fund and promote a film that sticks to more commercial pathways and affirms what film goers find comfortable and familiar.

How much more thrilling it is when an artist takes us by the hand and leads us on a journey beyond our experience and in so doing builds a bridge of genuine insight and empathy.

There are so many layers of misunderstanding and stereotype to peel away and this new film Charlie’s Country is another important contribution to building deeper understanding of the experience of indigenous Australians.

Waterbird, Fish, Stingray

Lobo Badari – Arnhem Land

This is a semi-autobiographical film co-written by David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer who have previously collaborated with The Tracker and Ten Canoes.

Charlie’s Country was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.  The quality of David Gulpilil’s performance in this film saw him win the Best Actor award.

Our friends at Aboriginal Art Directory have published an interesting review of Charlie’s Country by Jeremy Eccles.

To find out more about his important film I recommend his review Gulpilil’s Country.



Collector Offers Rare Aboriginal Art From Australia’s Best

I’m excited to be announcing a collection of rare works by Aboriginal artists in an exhibition at Japingka Gallery from 18 July – 20 August called Private Eye. Click here to view the exhibition.

The exhibition will include works from famous Australian Aboriginal artists including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Naata Nungurrayi, Jackie Giles, Johnny Warangkula, Elizabeth Nyumi, Lucy Yukenbarri, Mitjili Gibson, Maxie Tjampitjinpa and Jimmy Pike.

The National Gallery of Australia writes citing Emily Kame Kngwarreye as “one of Australia’s leading painters of modern times.”, and the National Museum of Australia talks of “the genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye”.

This exhibition has come about through private collectors deciding to put significant works from their collection up for sale. This offers art buyers and students of Aboriginal art a great opportunity to survey this significant period in contemporary Aboriginal art through the eyes of  collectors.

I’m also thrilled because the exhibition brings to the market many works from major artists not seen publicly since their purchase in the 1990’s.

These works are especially important to us because many of these paintings are from great artists who have passed away and whose work is rarely on view in public galleries.

What we really have here is a snapshot of works from senior artists at earlier stages of their careers.

They produced their art under specific conditions that gave rise to qualities that are unique to that period of the Aboriginal art movement.

I feel that the exhibition offers us an insight into how WA collectosr built a collection of works during this important chapter of Australian art history.

It’s still a few weeks before the exhibition opens but there’s a buzz around here already.

We’re all looking forward to sharing this special collection with you.

Note: after the exhibition launch, we published an article covering The Emily Kngwarreye Phenonemon.



New Collector Stories – Pixie & The Alma Granites Painting That Started It All

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Alma Nungarrayi Granites painting owned by Pixie

A painting by Alma Nungarrayi Granites (also known as Alma Nungarai Granites) sparked Pixie’s interest in aboriginal art. Since her first purchase a year ago she’s added quite a few more aboriginal paintings to her collection. Pixie tells how she’s cleared away her other artworks and even some furniture to transform her home. Here she talks about her collection with Jody from Japingka Gallery.

Jody: Pixie you’ve had the most amazing year since you started your collection.

Pixie: It’s taken me completely by surprise and now I can’t let it go. I have to keep on and on. Even if I stop buying I still have to keep coming back in and looking.
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The Rain Making – A Story about Kurtal, by David Downs

Kurtal by David Downs

Kurtal, by David Downs

When we’re doing an opening night for a show here at Japingka Gallery we usually tell a story.

There’s not a lot of  pre-planning to it, we just pick a painting and talk to the people who are in the room about something that has a strong impact on us.

Let me give you an example. At our last opening two weeks ago, we picked this David Downs painting – Kurtal.
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What Do You Need To Start Your Aboriginal Art Collection?

Cross Roads, Argyle Hill by Rover Thomas

Cross Roads, Argyle Hill by Rover Thomas

It’s always a pleasure to hear stories from people about how they first fell in love with Aboriginal art.

One thing that I hear in all the stories is the spark of passion that happens at the very beginning. They saw one particular painting and that was it.

Their journey as a collector had just begun.
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Book Launch by Adrian Newstead at Japingka Gallery

Bill Benn, Artist with Adrian Newstead, Author

Sydney art dealer Adrian Newstead spoke of his 30 year involvement in Aboriginal art at the launch of his latest book “The Dealer is the Devil:  An Insiders History of the Aboriginal Art Trade”. The book launch at Japingka Gallery on Friday 4 April coincided with the exhibition opening for “Desert Song – Women Artists”.

Newstead spent 7 years writing this fast- paced account of the major issues and events that have affected the Aboriginal art market on its journey from a tiny niche supply in 1970 to a major art movement 40 years later. The book has 66 concise chapters and runs to 500 pages with evocative photos of the people, places and artworks that are central to the story.

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Larripuka Sandhills

Pike Family – Japingka Gallery

Larripuka Sandhills by Jimmy Pike

4 April – 21 May 2014

A long association between Japingka Gallery and the family of Jimmy Pike is celebrated with an exhibition of works by Jimmy and his brother Edgar Pike, and Francine Steele, Jimmy’s niece. The exhibition features paintings, silkscreen prints, etchings and silk scarves. Jimmy Pike’s first drawings and limited edition prints were made in Fremantle in the early 1980s, while Edgar and Francine work in the small Kimberley community of Ngumpan. Together their story covers the journey of their clan from the Great Sandy Desert north to the cattle station country of the Fitzroy Valley.

Jimmy Pike (1940–2002)  became one of Australia’s best known Aboriginal artists from the 1980s as a result of artwork that he created in Fremantle when he was a prisoner within the walls of old Fremantle gaol. Japingka Gallery has maintained a 30 year long association with the family of Jimmy Pike, and the gallery was named after a desert site that was the meeting place for Jimmy Pike’s clan.

Jimmy Pike was a great story teller and illustrator of the traditional lifestyle Read the rest of this entry »