Showing for one more week until 28 October, Ochres and Barks: Contemporary Indigenous art of the land at Salt Contemporary, features ochre and bark paintings, ceramics and sculptures from remote indigenous art centres around Australia, in works that meld the contemporary with the traditional.
Encompassing a wide range of imagery, the works are united by the materials from which they are made – pure ochres, clays, barks and fibres from the land. The exhibition features new ochre paintings by Kimberley artists Lloyd Kwilla and Claude Carter, ceramics from Ernabella Arts, bagu sculptures from Girringun Arts, Qld, and barks, weavings and carvings from Arnhem Land.
Installation view of a corner of the exhibition at Salt Contemporary. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary.
Lloyd Kwilla and Claude Carter are well known for their textured, pure ochre canvases. Carter uses black ochre extensively in his paintings and in his recent works he has reversed his palette to feature white over black, brown, green and yellow underpainting. Lloyd Kwilla’s new paintings, in soft pink, grey, white and brown tones, trace the underground waterways and rockholes of the Great Sandy Desert.
Claude Carter, Goonboorooru (Cave series), 2013, pure Kimberley ochres on canvas, 140 x 100cm. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary.
Lloyd Kwilla, Marnkal (spinifex) at Wangkajunka, pure Kimberley ochre on canvas, 180 x 150cm. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary.
Also featured in the exhibition are ceramic bagu figures from Far North Queensland. Traditionally, bagu is used as a container for carrying firesticks (Jimun) and made from milky pine wood. The shape is based on a human form incorporating several holes for the firesticks. Now the innovative artists from Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre are making the bagu from clay, timber and string and have decorated them with traditional ochres.
Bagu figure clay sculptures, Girringun Aboriginal Arts. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary. [These bagu figures have personality plus!]
Bagu figure clay sculptures, Girringun Aboriginal Arts. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary.
The exhibition also features sculptural stoneware by the potters from Australia’s oldest arts centre Ernabella Arts in the APY Lands. The surfaces of the pots are scored with traditional designs about the journeys of the creation ancestors.
The gathering of honey and other bush foods is celebrated on bark paintings by artists such as Mulkun Wirrpanda, Yalmakany Marawili and Malabu Gumana of East Arnhem Land. They continue to work in the painting tradition which has been unbroken for tens of thousands of years and some works tell stories of the ancestors who created the dramatic landscape features of their saltwater country.
Bark painting from Arnhem Land and Tjimpuna Williams, Pututjia, stoneware with terrasigilatta, Ernabella Arts, 33.5x15cm. Image courtesy Salt Contemporary.
The exhibition is curated by Susan and Emily McCulloch who have included a strong component of three dimensional forms in the show, perhaps reflecting the growing interest in crafted and fashioned indigenous art objects. For example, this year’s Telstra Art Awards saw carved figurines, soft sculptures, decorated bags and ceramic pieces strongly represented; The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is currently showing string theory which heavily features woven pieces by Tjanpi Desert Weavers (incidentally, the works of Tjanpi weavers were also exhibited in Geelong at Metropolis Gallery earlier this month); and, according to art critic John McDonald, the recent Darwin Art Fair 2013 was dominated by crafted work such as dolls, textiles, baskets, prints, jewellery and miniature carvings.
With the rise in popularity of crafted indigenous art objects, the distinction between the traditional and the contemporary is blurring as old mediums and techniques are interpretated in new ways.