RMIT Focus on Indigenous culture: Ngarara Place & Streets of Papunya

The launch on May 30 of RMIT University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and opening the newly completed Indigenous Garden – “Ngarara Place” – on RMIT’s City campus has kept the focus firmly on Indigenous culture during the busy events as part of the current RMIT Gallery exhibition Streets of Papunya.

The launch of RMIT’s RAP and the opening of “Ngarara Place” featured special guest performer Dan Sultan to celebrate National Reconciliation Week on our City campus.

Dan delighted audiences when he performed at the November 2013 opening of the RMIT Gallery exhibition Music, Melbourne + Me.

The RAP and RMIT’s current endeavours in reconciliation are the culmination of a 25-year journey that the University is determined to continue into the future.

Likewise, the Streets of Papunya exhibition is part of RMIT Gallery’s long standing commitment to showing exhibitions of Indigenous artwork, and works by Indigenous artists. Here are some of the photos of the Streets of Papunya exhibition opening and public programs, which included visits by Papunya artists.

Indigenous art exhibitions at RMIT Gallery:

Streets of Papunya: The reinvention of Papunya painting

6 May – 11 June 2016

Celebrating the renaissance of painting that has occurred in one of the best-known locations of art production in Central Australia, since the establishment of the Papunya Tjupi Arts Centre in 2007.

Richard Bell: Imagining Victory

11 MARCH – 23 APRIL 2016

Leading Australian artist Richard Bell’s trilogy of video projects digs beneath the veneer of cultural integration to expose how racism can be deeply embedded and passed on to future generations. See the virtual tour of the exhibition.

Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning


This exhibition included works by Gija artists, both past and present, which explored aspects of the rich and significant story Garnkiny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming).

Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo


Warlayirti examined 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.

Streets of Papunya video now live

Papunya was the place where contemporary desert art all began.

Streets of Papunya: The Reinvention of Papunya painting at RMIT Gallery until 11 June, curated by renowned Papunya scholar Vivien Johnson, tells the story of the renaissance of artwork from this renowned location and reveals the remarkable art of the women painters of Papunya today, the daughters of the men who founded the desert art movement at Papunya in the 1970s.

Watch the video, which features Vivien talking about the exhibition at RMIT Gallery, and painter Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, who travelled from Papunya to open the exhibition, and speak at the well attended floor talk the following day.

Charlotte  was taught to paint by her father Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, one of the founders of the desert art movement.

“It is now our turn to do the paintings,” Charlotte said. “It’s about our country, and our grandfather’s country.”


Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula standing between her work (left) Kapi Tjukurrpa – Kalipinypa, 2015 and (right) Water Dreaming in the Cliffs 1972, by her father Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra.



Papunya artists & their legacy: RMIT Gallery talk Thursday 26 May 1-2 pm


John Kean at RMIT Gallery’s Streets of Papunya exhibition, in front of “Artist’s Country, 1979” by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula.

Join us on Thursday 26 May 1-2 pm at RMIT Gallery’s Streets of Papunya exhibition when John Kean (above) talks about the original Papunya artists and their legacy.

An independent producer, curator, and writer, John has published extensively on Indigenous art and has an enduring relationship with Western Desert artists having worked as adviser to Papunya Tula Artists (1977-79) and interim administrator for Pintupi Homelands Health Service (1984-85). He will share observations derived from working and writing about this renowned location.

The magic of Papunya art touched The Age arts reviewer Robert Nelson, who called the RMIT Gallery exhibition’ beautiful’ and praised the ‘spellbinding works’. Read more.

Forty-five years ago Kaapa Tjampitjinpa and Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula were central to the formulation of contemporary desert art. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, they deployed their inherited iconography while exploring poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas.

Artistic dynasties are very important in Papunya. Artist Isobel Major Nampitjinpa visited RMIT Gallery while in Melbourne yesterday for the opening of Keepers of Place (new works by Papunya Tjupi artists) at Fortyfivedownstairs & posed at RMIT Gallery with her exquisite painting Tali which hangs alongside paintings by both her father and mother.


Family dynasty: Isobel Major Nampitjinpa at the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery. She stands in the middle of three family works – (left) her mother Punata Stockman Nungarrayi’s painting ‘Ilpitirri (Mt Denison)’, 2015, (middle) her father (Billy) Kumuntjayai Stockman Tjapaltjarri’s’ Untitled (Ngatitjirri Dreaming at Ilpitirri)’, 1975, and her own work (right) ‘Tali (Sandhill)’, 2011.

Exhibition curator Vivien Johnson explains, “There’s an elaborate genealogy “family tree” in the exhibition that connects each of the artists exhibiting with Papunya Tjupi with their fathers or grandfathers who were amongst the founders of the desert art movement in Papunya.

“Being realistic it obviously has something to do with the fact that’s there’s not many other paying occupations available in these places. But at the same time it also has to do with why people paint with the cultural, the social, all these dimensions of art that are really important as part of the role it plays in those communities.

“So dynasties are comparatively common in desert art as the years go by and Papunya being the birth place is the perfect place to observe this phenomenon and it is quite remarkable.”


Papunya Family Tree: Opening night, Streets of Papunya at RMIT Gallery. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography, 2016.

What: John Kean talk on Papunya artists and legacy

When: Thursday 26 May

Time: 1-2 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Bookings: (free event) click to book




Performprint’s live art event attracts skater fans

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Skateboarders gather to watch Chris Buckman create “Beauty, bearings and irrelevance’ in Rodda Lane, behind RMIT Gallery, on Saturday 21 May, 2016.

Saturday afternoon, behind RMIT Gallery, in the middle of the city. Despite being mid May, the mild weather was kind for the crowd, and ditto the lack of rain for artist Joel Gailer, who was inking up the large wooden panels in preparation for skater Chris Buckman.

Performprint’s Beauty, bearings and irrelevance, a live performance art work on Saturday 21 May as part of RMIT Gallery’s printmaking exhibition Out of the Matrix, was engaging and atmospheric, with loud music pumping out of a boom box.

But it was the sound of the wheels on the white board that drew a crowd of young skaters down Rodda Lane, like seagulls lured by the smell of hot chips. They watched as Buckman made his mark, gliding the wheel’s carved words ‘vixen’, ‘matrix’, ‘singular’ ‘repeat’ and ‘give me relief’ over the ink and onto the prepared surface.


Gailer says that Buckman added his own authorship to the resulting work, requesting skating in four spots of ink rather than one, and determining when the image was finished.

There was no final bow to the audience, no round of applause – the skater and the artist wanted it that way, with the last roll of the carved skateboard wheels turning in the breeze and memory.

The print had emerged and rested temporarily for its photo call. The skaters lingered and then left to do their own skating at the nearby State Library forecourt. The rest of the audience chatted and took photos, then headed out into the afternoon.

For those who decided to get a closer look – well, they tracked home the inky residue on their shoes, collecting a printmaking memento. Just like Buckman’s hands.



Skateboarding & printmaking: performance Saturday 21 May


Out of the Matrix: Joel Gailer makes tracks in his live performance art. Photo: Tobias Titz

Skateboarding and printmaking? This Saturday 21 May from 1-2 pm at RMIT Gallery, the printmaking collaboration Performprint will create a work for the exhibition Out of the Matrix using a board, ink and skater Chris Buckman – be there!

Out of the Matrix – the RMIT Gallery printmaking exhibition that celebrates new directions in printmaking, is currently showing at RMIT Gallery until 11 June. Curator Richard Harding says printmaking embraces performance. Think about it – artists move to make prints, turning the wheel on the press, dipping a plate in an acid bath to make an etching. It can be a dazzling show and the best bit is there is never, ever any certainty as to how the print will turn out until it is separated from the matrix.

In the case of Performprint’s performance Bearings, beauty and irrelevance”    the matrix is the carved skateboard wheels.

Artist Joel Gailer, who is completing his PhD in printmaking at RMIT, used to do the action and as these photos by Tobias Titz reveal, he is not slouch when it comes to handling a skateboard. But Gailer says ‘age and knee issues’ have caught up with him when it comes to the great acrobatic tricks that thrill the crowd.

Enter experienced skater Chris Buckman.

Chris Buckman

Skater Chris Buckman will be adding his own marks to Performprint’s live art performance at RMIT Gallery on 21 May as part of the ‘Out of the Matrix’ exhibition

Gailer says that Buckman will be adding his own authorship to the resulting work, having requested skating in four spots of ink rather than one. The print that emerges will all depend on the movements and jumps and falls of Buckman’s skateboard. His actions and prowess on the board will determine the finished artwork.

“Performprint is a collaborative group of artists who are interested in divesting ownership in the work,” Gailer explains.

“Printmaking is very concerned with formal ownership, but we are interested in printmaking that hasn’t been recognised. For instance, branding is a type of ownership.”

Gailer pauses.

“I’ve been branded as a part of my performance.”

In fact, Gailer submitted to the hot branding iron not once, but twice in pursuit of his art and research. You could say it’s the ultimate commitment for his art – and doctoral studies. In two separate performances, Gailer had the phrase “A cool breeze on your hot eggs” seared into his flesh, and then “hot process” branded into his other thigh.

“Yes, it was an extreme act, but it was part of a very intense, 10 hour performance, so I got into a particular head space.”


A spot of ink, carved skateboard wheels and performance – don’t miss watching Performprint in action. Photo: Tobias Titz.

Performprint’s work “Beauty, bearings and irrelevance” created by Buckman is in the exhibition as the performance on 21 May only – the resulting print will not be on display at RMIT Gallery, although audiences are encouraged to photograph and video the action.

The action will take place in the laneway (Rodda lane) behind  RMIT Gallery on Swanston Street. However, audiences are asked to meet at the gallery and follow the signs to the performance.

Join the performance! What can you expect? This is a four channel work created by Performprint as part of Skater Editions for the Signal projection screen. It features a range of performers making experimental prints on canvas using carved skateboard wheels.

What: “Beauty, bearings and irrelevance” Performprint’s live art performance, featuring skater Chris Buckman

When: Saturday 21 May from 1-2 pm (event may finish after 45 minutes)

Where: Rodda lane, RMIT (behind RMIT gallery, 344 Swanston Street Melbourne – follow signs posted at the gallery and walk around the corner)

Bookings: FREE event (with music) more information: 


Expanding print panel discussion: what next for print?


Performprint, is a collective featuring two artists and an anonymous skateboarder, takes printmaking off the walls and out of the gallery. Photo by Tobias Titz.

Using the premise of the matrix, from which all prints emanate, the RMIT printmaking exhibition Out of the Matrix at RMIT Gallery (6 May-11 June) invites viewers to explore new ways of thinking about printmaking.

Join printmakers Jazmina Cininas, Joel Gailer, Bridget Hillebrand, Clare Humphries and  Andrew Tetzlaff on Thursday 12 May, 5.30-6.30 pm as they discuss what it means as an artist to be print informed, and how they use both analogue and digital techniques in their work, and ponder the nature and future of printmaking.

What: The expanding print – panel discussion

When: Thursday 12 May, 5.30-6.30 pm

Where: Green Brain RMIT, Storey Hall, Level 7, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne. (NOTE: we have moved the event next door from RMIT Gallery due to size of the audience and restrictions of gallery space).

Bookings: free – register here for seating.


Andrew Tetzlaff with his work Yarra (suspended), 2015. Inkjet fabric print.

RMIT University has a long tradition of pushing the boundaries of printmaking, and this exciting new exhibition at RMIT Gallery brings together a group of artists who activate an expanded understanding of print practice, and who all have a connection to the RMIT printmaking studio either as staff or alumni.

With 2016 declared ‘the year of print’ in celebration of the Print Council of Australia’s 50th anniversary, Out of the Matrix focuses the spotlight firmly on the outstanding achievements of RMIT printmakers over the past 65 years, and their current agency within the wider print community.


Clare Humphries, installing her work What remains, what returns, 2016. in Out of the Matrix at RMIT Gallery.

About the panel

CHAIR: Jazmina Cininas’s technically demanding reduction linocuts of female werewolves have been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. The unconventional portraits feature in ABCTV’s Re-Enchantment documentary project and can be found in many major Australian public collections. Jazmina completed her PhD project The Girlie Werewolf Hall of Fame in 2014.

Joel Gailer’s work directs its focus to the mass produced and commercial world of print and copy-based technologies. Highlighting our excessive and compliant consumption of printed media his prints are a light-hearted reverence for printmaking and its relationship to mass production, media and print processes. Gailer’s practice is extended through the collaborative development Performprint.

Bridget Hillebrand is completing her practice-based PhD at Monash University. She has a Master Degree in Fine Art, RMIT University where she lectures in the Print Imaging Practice Studio at the School of Art. She has won a number of printmaking awards and is represented in numerous collections in Australia and overseas.

Clare Humphries current practice explores objects of the deceased and notions of materiality within rituals of bereavement. She is a lecturer in Drawing and Printmedia at the Victorian College of the Arts and has work represented in major public collections including the National Gallery of Australia.

Andrew Tetzlaff is a Melbourne-based artist, curator and academic. His practice considers the felt bodily encounter of matter, phenomena and site—specifically focusing on ways in which material objects can reveal or allude to intangible forces. Recent projects include: 2015 – The Door in the Wall, Yarra (suspended), CONCRETE POST 3 and Tomorrow Never Dies; and 2014 – Situations and Displace.




Streets of Papunya: artist and curator talk


Left to right: Papunya artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri, Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula and curator Vivien Johnson at the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Artist and curator floor talk – Friday 6 May 1-2 pm

Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, painter and Chairperson of Papunya Tjupi Art Centre (2010-14) and Vivien Johnson, an eminent scholar of Papunya art, will be giving a floor talk on the works in the Streets of Papunya exhibition, exploring the legacy and renaissance of art work at this renowned location in Central Australia, and the extraordinary work of the women painters in this celebrated location of art production.

The Papunya Tjupi art centre was established in the Northern Territories’ Western Desert region in 2007, and the Streets of Papunya exhibition showcases work from the centre, as well as the region’s historical association with painting.

Papunya is a Western Desert town regarded as the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal painting, dating back to Albert Namatjira’s final paintings, executed in 1959, through to examples from the 1970s and 80s when the town was simultaneously experiencing it’s ‘glory days’ and dark times as the ‘carpetbagging capital of the desert’, and on to the modern renaissance

When: Friday 6 May – artist and curator floor talk. Free – all welcome.

Time: 1-2 pm

Location: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.



Welcome: RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies (far right) shows Papunya artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri (holding her hand), Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula and curator Vivien Johnson around the Streets of Papunya exhibition which opens 6-8 pm Thursday 5 May at RMIT Gallery.

Making Connections: Artists visit Ngarara Willim Centre


(seated, left to right) Martha McDonald Napaltjarri and Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, with staff from RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

While at RMIT University for the Streets of Papunya exhibition opening and floor talk at RMIT Gallery, visiting artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri and Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula were given a warm welcome and afternoon tea by staff at RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The Ngarara Willim Centre supports and encourages indigenous students throughout their studies at RMIT, and Martha and Charlotte, who both have strong backgrounds as educators in their community, were interested in hearing about the Centre’s activities.


Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula in between her work (left) and her father Long jack Phillipus Tjakamarra’s work, in the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula is the eldest daughter of Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, one of the founders of the desert art movement and one time Chairman of Papunya Tula Artists. Her mother was Long Jack’s first wife Suzette Napaltjarri, who was the daughter of important Pintupi elder Kamutu, one of the earliest Pintupi arrivals in Hermannsburg from the west.

Charlotte learnt to paint by assisting her father Long Jack on his canvases, but was busy with her teaching commitments and did not paint herself for Warumpi Arts in the 1990s and early 2000s. She has been a member of Papunya Tjupi Arts since its inception.

For a long time Charlotte was active in various teaching roles in Papunya School, especially the preschool. Although she has stepped back because of her health, she continues her commitment to education and cultural maintenance through her involvement as a language consultant on the 4th Edition of Ken Hansen’s Pintupi/Luritja Dictionary.


Martha McDonald Napaltjarri next to two of her paintings in the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Martha McDonald Napaltjarri ) is the only child of founding Papunya Tula artist Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi and his first wife. Martha worked with linguist John Heffernan in the Papunya Literature production and Adult Education program and in the Papunya pre-school alongside her sister Linda Tjunkaya Syddick Napaltjarri. She began painting in 2008 for Papunya Tjupi and rapidly emerged as a talented painter. Martha also enjoys making baskets and necklaces for Papunya Tjupi. She is an important elder in the Papunya community.

Streets of Papunya: The reinvention of Papunya painting, curated by Vivien Johnson, RMIT Gallery 6 May – 11 June, 2016.

People who wish to purchase works from the Papunya Tjupi Art Centre might also be interested in the exhibition Keepers of Place: new works from Papunya Tjupi, 24 May – 4 June 2016, Presented by McCulloch & McCulloch in association with Papunya Tjupi Arts.