New works by TELSTRA Award Winner Dennis Nona
Opening: Saturday 22nd October at 2pm
22nd September - 20th October 2011
Nona is somewhat of a phenomenon. He is the most highly awarded Indigenous artist practising in Australia today. No other Australian printmaker of his generation has reached his artistic heights. - Adrian Newstead, Director, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery
The prints of Dennis Nona transport the viewer into a captivating dream world inhabited by sea creatures (turtles, dugongs, sharks and crocodiles), and Jérôme Bosch-like characters drawn from the ancient legends of the Western Torres Strait Islands.
Dennis Nona is widely acknowledged as one the most important Torres Strait Islander artists.
Born on Badu Island in 1973 he was taught as a young boy the traditional craft of woodcarving. This skill has been developed and translated into the incredibly intricate and beautiful linocuts, etchings and sculptures created by the artist since the commencement of his art practice in 1989.
He has documented, in a vivid visual form, the ancient myths and legends of his island and the wider Torres Strait that had previously been transmitted by oral story telling and dance. Within Nona's work there is a celebration of island myths and legends, of how humans, animals, plants and landscape took their meaning from epic or magical events in the past. Legendary heroes wore distinctive local headdress and masks. They played drums and used objects associated with their ritual ceremonies and dances. It was a society where men, women, sorcerers and witches came to their final grief by being transformed into sea creatures or cast into the sea to become the islands and rocky outcrops evident throughout the Western Torres Strait Islands today.
The curator of Australian Prints at the National Gallery of Australia, Roger Butler, says that Nona's early work represented a trend by artists to explore the physicality of the print making process, stating: "He (Nona) sits there with a lot of lino and with a very sharp little chisel and cuts out those incredibly detailed little lines and gouge marks... That's really taking it back to the processes of (German Renaissance artist) Albrecht Durer, a simple technique that makes VERY complex images."
Nona is continually evolving as an artist. From sculpting wooden figures as a child, to the intricate linocuts referred to by Butler (above), and now more recently etching plates and bronze sculptures. Nona's works are all highly skilled compositions. His etchings are crafted hand-made surfaces, made up of a complex of finely chiselled hand made lines, which are then coloured before printing.
Dennis Nona has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and overseas, including Paris, regional France & London. His work can be seen in the collections of most of the major Australian art institutions and in several important overseas collections. These include the National Gallery of Australia; Queensland Art Gallery; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Cambridge University Museum UK and the Museum of American Indian Arts, USA.
Dennis Nona lives in Cairns, Northern Queensland.