posted on 04/08/21
Our exhibition tour, Discovering 'Ceremony', spends 3 days in Canberra and features the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery. This is the only First Nations-led major national survey exhibition in Australia and an exciting coming together of diverse art styles and practices from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists working today.
Later in the year, we journey to Alice Springs and Uluru to visit the vibrant Indigenous art communities of the Central Desert and explore the origins and legacy of The Western Desert Art Movement.
Most of the world’s great art movements appear to have been born of a concentration of ideas and opportunity in a fairly specific time and place – and so it was for the Australian Western Desert Art Movement. In 1971, in the remote Aboriginal government settlement of Papunya, 250km west of Alice Springs, a non-Indigenous teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, began at a local school and encouraged the Indigenous children to paint traditional Aboriginal patterns on neglected classroom walls. The project attracted the attention of two yardmen, Bill Stockman Tjapaltjari and Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamara, both Aboriginal Elders, who offered to contribute. The school murals quickly led to a blossoming of artistic activity by groups of local Indigenous men, eager to share traditional designs and stories, motivated by the interest in their cultural knowledge. Bardon promoted these early painted boards (created by the subsequently named Papunya Tula artists) to his friends and connections within Australia. From there, the movement flourished.
Western Desert Art represents an extraordinary modern art movement and a vital expression by Indigenous artists wishing to assert their rights to land and cultural recognition. Up to this point, ceremonial art of the Central Australian Desert was usually ephemeral, produced as body art or ground sculpture. The translation of these traditional cultural designs, often veiling sacred restricted knowledge for non-initiated and non-Indigenous audiences, into a specific new medium was eventually characterised by intricate dot designs in acrylic paint on canvas. Exploring the dynamic creativity and cross-cultural impact of the early Papunya Tula artists, including the challenges and controversy they faced, allows us a fuller appreciation of the varied and comprehensive expression of Australian Indigenous art today.
With the additional measures and planning that COVID brings to running tours safely, we are in the unusual position of needing to assess interest for these two tours in advance. Please register your interest now to receive tour details as soon as they are released.