The role of art is to reflect, grow, and shape culture. Artists challenge norms and shape the cultural zeitgeist. Artistic groups are formed against the backdrop of their time and place. Usually in hindsight, if their contribution becomes clear and definable, we categorise these groups in specific artistic movements.
Indigenous Australian art is usually referred to, from a distance, as a movement. The term implies that the creative period has passed and that it belongs not in contemporary art galleries but in museums, carefully archived and displayed behind glass. Even some in the industry treat the art as something drawn from a finite and dwindling pool, as though the “movement” consists only of the trailblazer Aboriginal artists. But even the originators of Australian Aboriginal art as we know it are not finished driving and re-contextualising the creative process that is overdue to be seen as a contemporary art form rather than an anthropological one.
Australian Indigenous artists have been creating art separate from and connected to each other for thousands of years, in places related to each other as neighbouring countries rather than regions of the same state. It continues to evolve, as it always has, as a contemporary art form. These works have been selected to highlight this point in a condensed form. The six artists showcased in this year’s exhibition Not So Virtual have all taken traditional and highly important stories and themes, presenting them in a fashion that helps the viewer bridge the gap.
This show centres around Emily Kame Kngwarreye, by now easily the most internationally recognised Australian Artist. Her works where among the first to pave the road between anthropological and artistic treatment of work by Australian Indigenous artists. Her paintings are collected and housed by the finest institutions and galleries worldwide. Most recently, Gagosian Gallery presented a dedicated a solo exhibition.
Jorna Newberry’s simple-toned, minutely detailed Wind Dreaming paintings shimmer with knowledge and connection to country.
Kitty Napanangka Simon, who has been represented by Cooee Art in conjunction with Warnayaka Art Centre in Lajamanu, offer a bold gestural perspective on the highly important Mina Mina Dreaming.
Arnhem Land artist Yimula Munungurr’s works on bark and Lorrkons (burial poles) vibrate with detailed clan designs in fine crosshatched fields of colour, presented in conjunction with Buku Larrngay Arts in Yirrkala.
Utopia artist Josie Petrick Kemarre, from the same country as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, creates flowing instinctual fields of colour by using meticulously placed and flawlessly executed dots.
Rammey Ramsey’s textured compositions remind us of earlier Kimberly artists such as Rover Thomas or Queenie Mckenzie, while using bright and powerful (sometimes even fluorescent or neon) colours.