Sculptor Sia Cox’s exhibition Good Friends, recently shown at RAFT Artspace, was a wondrous survey of contemporary portraiture. A room of soft sculptures, in the form of puppets, figures and still life, celebrated the artist’s dearly held relationships with both family and friends. It was impossible not to be drawn into the multitude of emotions expressed both plainly and subtly by this eclectic gathering of characters and in a peculiar, yet intimate way to, at least for a moment, become a part of their world. LUKE SCHOLES reviews.
With time inevitably short, three old men from Wanarn, way out in the Gibson Desert, speak to us on canvas with a sense of urgency. They give us the essence and they move on. The fundamental design elements of Aboriginal art from the desert – the familiar dotted lines, roundels, concentric circles, interlocking grids – are deployed without "embellishment", as Dallas Gold of RAFT Artspace says.
Their names are Ben Holland, Tjunka Lewis and Neville Mcarthur. They live in an aged care facility at Warnan, pictured at left on painting day in a photo by Peter Yates, Tjunka Lewis in the foreground. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
We're used to the word 'remote' in Central Australia but try this for size: to reach the string of five art centres that make up Omie Artists you must trek by foot for up to three days, often (for seven months of the year and then some) in torrential rain, across flooding rivers, clambering up muddy mountain sides and slithering down again. The company's valiant manager, Brennan King, with six Omie security guards, necessary to protect him from attack by 'rascals' from the neighbouring tribe, make this journey several times a year. The artists' work – among the last traditional barkcloths being produced in the world – has to be brought out the same way, rolled over PVC pipes and hoisted on the shoulders of the art centre coordinators.
How remarkable then for these works, steeped in the law and lore of the Omie tribe of Papua New Guinea and many of them a tour de force of design brilliance, to arrive on our doorstep here in the dry centre of Australia and to resonate so strongly with us.
This experience we owe to, apart from Omie Artists, RAFT Artspace in Alice Springs. Its curator Dallas Gold wants to take the pulse of contemporary art in our region (in its expanded definition) and give us a sense of its dynamism, diversity, achievement and promise. This is the third exciting show in a row at RAFT, each stop opening up a window onto a world rich with beauty, ideas, observation and spirit.
The Omie are few in number, King says about 1800 according to a census done by the Omie themselves in 2009. Around 70 artists are producing barkcloths. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured, above left: Omie dance a welcome celebration for Brennan King's arrival at their newest art centre in January 2010. • Above: Pig tusks and teeth, and fern leaves by Linda-Grace Savari. Photos courtesy Omie Artists.
Photo: Painting by Telstra Award winner for 2011, Dickie Minyintiri.
All year Alice Springs has had its window onto the Aboriginal art of the moment, that outpouring of cultural affirmation and expressive brilliance coming from 'The Lands' – home to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples. Apart from his stockroom shows, the astute Dallas Gold of Raft Artspace has had his eyes fixed firmly on the south-west. The timing for his current show from Ernabella Arts couldn't have been better. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
SLIDE SHOW: Kapi Tjukula (Waterholes) by Dickie Minyintiri • the artist with his Telstra winning work, Kanyalakutjina (Euro tracks), photo courtesy MAGNT • ceramic workshop at Ernabella, from left Gordon Ingkatji (his piece is not in the Raft show), Andy Tjilari, Dickie Minyintiri in his favoured policeman's cap • Tali – sand dune, ceramic by Pepai Jangala Carroll • Kapi Tjukula at Ilpili, ceramic by Pepai Jangala Carroll • Kapi Tjukula, ceramic by Dickie Minyintiri • Walungurru by Pepai Jangala Carroll. All photos courtesy Ernabella Arts and Raft Artspace, unless otherwise indicated.