Aboriginal artists arrive for RMIT Gallery exhibition opening tonight

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The Gija artists (above: Phyllis Thomas, Mabel Juli (in front of her art work), her son Ralph Juli and Rusty Peters) and Balgo mob (below) have arrived at RMIT Gallery for the opening tonight, Monday 15 September, of two important exhibitions: Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo and Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning.

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Two of the curators from the exhibition Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning were at the gallery this week – (far left) Anna Crane and (far right) Adam Bond, who will be speaking at the Ursula Hoff lecture on Aboriginal Art Centres tomorrow night at RMIT Storey Hall.

The exhibitions will be opened at 6 pm by  Colin Hunter, Elder of the Wurundjeri Tribe Council; Tony Ellwood, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria and the Most Rev Christopher A Saunders DD,  Bishop of Broome, with a Didge performance by Jesse Gardiner. 

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Emotions were high for the artists from Balgo as they viewed restored church banners and greeted  Sister Alice Dempsey (pictured below, with curator Dr Jacqueline Healy), who played a key role in establishing the Warlayirti Arts Centre, and spent 30 years working with the community.

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Behind the scenes: Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo

jacky 2IMG_4962Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo which opens to the public at RMIT Gallery next week (16 September – 8 November),  brings together key examples of works from Warlayirti Artists sourced from public collections and clearly defines the beginnings of this important art movement.

Warlayirti Artists is one of the most successful art centres to emerge from remote area Australia located at Balgo, Western Australia in the midst of the Tanami desert. Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu) is the ceremonial hub for several indigenous clans from the Kimberley and Western Desert (Kutjungka) and is on the Luurnpa (kingfisher) Dreaming track.

The curator, Jacqueline Healy (pictured) has been visiting Warlayirti Artists annually for over a decade and has worked closely with the committee arts advisors and individual artists in devising the exhibition.

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The Pallottine Mission was established near Balgo in the late 1930s as a buffer for Indigenous people against the onslaught of pastoralism and mining. They offered an alternative dialogue with Kartiya (White people).The art movement began with the painting of church banners in 1981 for Father Peile’s jubilee lead by the senior men. These banners were painted on calico with poster paint in the Adult Education Centre at Balgo, utilising materials available in the community at the time. It was a most significant gesture to Father Piele, and in these collaborative works each senior man revealed his country.

The Wirrimanu (Balgo) community achieved self-determination and government in 1980s but chose to have an ongoing relationship with the Catholic Church within the community. The early banners exemplify the power of this relationship which continues today.

A group of old men, names and associations not given  Assembly banner 1981  Paint on calico 400.0 x 89.0 cm St Theresa Church, Balgo Collection ‘This banner was the first to be painted for the Balgo Hills Church and represents a number of different mythological sequences from the period of the Dreaming. Each of these was associated with persons living at the settlement. The banner is one of two which are hung behind the altar during Christian festivals.’  (Art from the Great Sandy Desert exhibition catalogue, 1986)

A group of old men, names and associations not given
Assembly banner 1981
Paint on calico
400.0 x 89.0 cm
St Theresa Church, Balgo Collection
‘This banner was the first to be painted for the Balgo Hills Church and represents a number of different mythological sequences from the period of the Dreaming. Each of these was associated with persons living at the settlement. The banner is one of two which are hung behind the altar during Christian festivals.’
(Art from the Great Sandy Desert exhibition catalogue, 1986)

The art movement began  with the painting of church banners in 1981 for Father Peile’s jubilee lead by the senior men. These banners were painted on calico with poster paint in the Adult Education Centre at Balgo. It was a most significant gesture to Father Piele, in these collaborative works each senior man revealed his country.  Through Mathew Gill ( Son of Susie Bootja Bootja and Mick Gill Tjakamara) the old men approached,  Sister Alice Dempsey to find out if they could  continue their painting at the St John’s Adult Education Centre, Balgo .

Seen for the first time for public display since they were painted in 1981, exhibition curator Dr Jacqueline Healy with the Assembly Banners at RMIT Gallery as part of the exhibition Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo (16 September - 8 November)

Seen for the first time for public display since they were painted in 1981, exhibition curator Dr Jacqueline Healy with the Assembly Banners at RMIT Gallery as part of the exhibition Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo (16 September – 8 November)

 In 1984 the women joined the painting group working alongside the men.   A selection of the works produced were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1986, at a watershed exhibition, Art from the Great Sandy Desert  resulting in the art from Balgo being recognised as a distinct body of work distinguished by diversity of style and bold use of colour. The exhibition was the catalyst for the establishment of the art centre at Balgo funded by the Australia Council named   Warlayirti Artists by the senior men. Many of Australia’s most recognised Australian artists come from this region including Murityarru Sunfly Tjampitjin,Wimmitji Tjapangarti, Boxer Milner, Eubena Nampitjin, Elizabeth Nyumi, Lucy Yukenbarri and John Mosquito Tjapangarti.

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Key individuals who participated in the 1986 exhibition have been interviewed including; Gracie Greene, Bruce Njamme, Gary Njamme and  Eubena Nampitjin. Important primary research material has been located in the Warlayirti Artists archives including the original documentation for the artworks in the 1986 exhibtion.

This exhibition brings together key examples of these works from public collections and clearly defines the beginnings of this important art movement. But this exhibition is not just about the past . It reveals the continued flourishing of the art movement. The exhibition shows more recent work by the leadng artists that have emerged from Warlayirti Artists and the current generation of artists. It examines the aesthetic divergences and vibrancy that distinguishes the art of Balgo. This exhibition has been developed in collaboration with Warlayirti Artists Committee.

The Ursula Hoff Annual Public Lecture 2014

Aboriginal art centres – the good, the bad and the ugly

Date: Tuesday 16 September

Time: 6-7 pm, RMIT Storey Hall.

Bookings:  Free. (03) 9925 1717.

Speakers: Dr Jacqueline Healy, Professor Ian McLean, Sister Alice Dempsey

The Ursula Hoff Annual Public Lecture 2014 will explore the role of curators and business in Aboriginal art. Presented by RMIT Gallery to launch the major exhibition Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo (16 September – 8 November); in conjunction with The Ursula Hoff Institute.

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Aboriginal Art Centres – The good, the bad and the ugly

Acrylic painting workshop in spinifex near where the Warlayirti Art Centre now stands, 1981. Photo: Warwick Nieass.

Acrylic painting workshop in spinifex near where the Warlayirti Art Centre now stands, 1981. Photo: Warwick Nieass.

The Ursula Hoff Annual Lecture 2014: 16 September 2014
Aboriginal Art Centres -The good, the bad and the ugly

Presented by RMIT Gallery to launch the major exhibitionWarlayirti: The Art of Balgo (16 September – 8 November), this public lecture will explore Aboriginal Art Centres -The good, the bad and the ugly. It considers the role of curators and business in Aboriginal art.

The late Dr Ursula Hoff AO OBE was the Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria from 1968–1973, a pioneering senior management role for a woman at that time. In her distinguished career, Dr Hoff made major contributions to academic scholarship, art curation and art education.

About the lecture
Art Centres are a key foundation stone of the Aboriginal Art market, particularly in remote area Australia. However, such art centres evoke mixed responses. Some suggest their multiple functions, social and cultural within their communities, interfere with the business of producing and selling art. Or is that the key to their success?

Title:           Aboriginal Art Centres -The good, the bad and the ugly
Speakers: Exhibition curator Dr Jacqueline Healy; Professor Ian McLean, academic and author; and Sister Alice                                   Dempsey, a key player in the establishment of Warlayirti Art Centre, who spent 30 years working with the community.
Date:          16 September, 2014
Time:          6.00 – 7.00 pm
Location:   RMIT Storey Hall
Building 16, 342 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Bookings: Free event but bookings required.
Ph (03) 9925 1717

Exhibition openings: Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo & Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning

 

John Tjapangarti [John Lewis] (c.1953) Camping as they travel along 1985 synthetic polymer paint on canvas board 50.8 x 60.9 cm Purchased for the Guy Grey-Smith Memorial Collection, 1986 State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia

John Tjapangarti [John Lewis] (c.1953)
Camping as they travel along 1985
synthetic polymer paint on canvas board
50.8 x 60.9 cm
Purchased for the Guy Grey-Smith Memorial Collection, 1986
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia

 Mr Tony Ellwood, Director National Gallery of Victoria, will open two new Aboriginal art exhibitions at RMIT Gallery at 6 pm on Monday 15 September. Free. All welcome.

Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo (image above) will examine the aesthetic divergences and vibrancy that distinguishes the art of Balgo and the importance of Christianity to the Balgo community as a means of cross cultural communication.

Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning (image below) will include works by Gija artists, both past and present, which explore aspects of the rich and significant story Garnkiny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming) which takes place on Yarin Country in Darrajayin, between Warmun and Halls Creek, in Western Australia. The telling, retelling and learning of these stories are powerful ways for this vast practical, intellectual and cultural legacy to be reproduced, passed on and reshaped.

The opening will take place in the presence of many of the the Most Rev Christopher A Saunders DD, Bishop of Broome, and artists from both exhibitions.

Mabel JULI  Born c.1932 Six Mile on Moolabulla Station, Western Australia Garnkiny Natural ochre and pigments on linen 180 X 120 cm Courtesy of Warmun Art Centre

Mabel JULI
Born c.1932 Six Mile on Moolabulla Station, Western Australia
Garnkiny
Natural ochre and pigments on linen
180 X 120 cm
Courtesy of Warmun Art Centre

 

PODCAST: Dr Malte Wagenfeld’s talk on the social focus & impact of the Ulm School of Design

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Dr Malte Wagenfeld, Head of Industrial Design at RMIT (above, coming to grips with the Ulm Stool), talks about the social focus, thinking and impact of the Ulm School and German design in the 60 to early 80s as part of the exhibition “Ulm School of Design’ at RMIT Gallery 1-30 August 2014.

Listen to his podcast here:

 

Images from Dr Malte Wagenfeld’s talk at RMIT Gallery on Tuesday 12 August, 2014.

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