Art & Enterprise
Vol 22 no 3, 2002
Guest editor Dorothy Erickson. How important are entrepreneurial skills in advancing an artist's career, and can the patronage of big business be a make or break factor? Artlink travels to the boom city of Perth in Western Australia, founded on private enterprise and gold mining, to see how artists have made a virtue of necessity and become some of Australia's most enterprising and well-travelled practitioners with strong connections with international galleries well before their eastern states colleagues. Philanthropy and patronage are also well developed in the west with big corporate collections a very direct way of supporting living artists. Aboriginal artists of the famous Kimberley region are also enjoying success in the international marketplace thanks to skilled coordinators and energetic dealers. Around the nation we look at dealers and individuals who have dedicated themselves to promoting new art - at ARCO in Spain, in new media in the Asia-Pacific, in remote Aboriginal communities. Lavishly illustrated in full colour.
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Art On A StringAuthor: Ms Christine Nicholls, review
Aboriginal Threaded Objects From the Central Desert and Arnhem Land, Co-curated by Louise Hamby and Diana Young
Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Adelaide
22 June - 11 August, 2002
This touring exhibition aims to introduce audiences to a wide range of threaded objects made by Indigenous peoples living in Central Australia and Arnhem Land. Various Australian fruits, seeds, shells, grass stems, bones and feathers have been fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, amulets, mats and other objects. Some of these have been painted, incised, burnt or pierced. Women have created almost all of the works on display.
A number of the works relate closely to pre-contact ceremonial practices that continue in remote communities of Australia to this day. Included among these are the love-magic and mortuary ceremonies in which woven hair string plays an important part.
While some of the works are little more than charming, others exude real power. A sensational necklace created from shark vertebrae by Maningrida woman Philomena Wilson (Carchahinus sp., 2000) is one marvellous example of this.
In some of the threaded objects naturally occurring materials have been combined with those that have been more recently introduced, for example glass beads and terra cotta clay. As well as hair string, which is symbolically and culturally significant in the regions represented, leather, fishing line and wool have also been used for stringing these materials together. Brightly coloured acrylic paint adorns many of the beans, seeds and pods on display, augmenting their natural luminosity.
Many of the threaded objects are playful and decorative, some even bordering on the kitsch. In a number of the necklaces, seeds or other materials have been used as dividers, their variegated look enhancing their visual appeal and accentuating their shiny appearance. Certainly many of the works on display are located on the 'wrong end' of the cultural and gender divide that has historically separated 'art' from 'craft', but the curators have clearly set out to challenge the orthodoxies on which such binary thinking is based – and they succeed in doing just that.
For example, there is an incredibly over-the-top hanging fly curtain made by Daisy Nyukana Baker, a Pitjantjatjara woman from Ernabella in South Australia. This extraordinary hybrid creation is redolent of the 'room dividers' that were à la mode in parts of suburban Australia in the1950s and 60s. In some respects Nyukana Baker's beaded fly curtain, made from painted gum fruits, could have belonged quite happily in the fictitious Moonee Ponds home of Edna Everage (before she became a dame). (Daisy Nyukana Baker, Pitjantjatjara, Ernabella South Australia, Fly Curtain, 2001, Acrylic painted gum fruits, Corymbia ficifolia or C. opaca and chippendaliea, bat-winged coral seeds Erythrina verspertilio, threaded on leather) But this fly curtain, like the beaded mats on display (one of which is decorated with Christian iconography), is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, because of its incongruity, and the unexpected materials comprising it. As such, it thoroughly upsets the conventions and expectations of both White Australian suburbia and 'traditional' Aboriginal craft work. This I view as one of the many strengths of this thoughtfully, and dare I say it, even lovingly curated exhibition.
Collectively the works on display here comprise a coherent, imaginative and colourful exhibition. The curatorial concept is unpretentious and works well at a number of levels.
Entering the gallery space to find oneself in this vivid universe of threaded objects I found to be both a refreshing and engaging experience – and one that I have no hesitation in recommending to others.
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Articles in this issue
- On Reflection by Noel Sheridan
- Artrave: Artrave
- Book Review: Balgo Art: New Directions
- Editorial: Art and Enterprise
- Feature: Backing Winners
- Feature: Business and the Arts
- Feature: Deep Pockets: Patronage and Philanthropy in the West
- Feature: Gomboc: Pastrol Care
- Feature: Kim Machan: Screening the Asia Pacfic
- Feature: Land, Poetry, Power: Selling Art from the Kimberley and Western Desert
- Feature: Love Your Work: Fremantle Arts Centre 30th Birthday
- Feature: Matthew Collings Comes to Town
- Feature: Moulding the City to the Desires of Artists
- Feature: Patronage and Corporate Collections in Western Australia
- Feature: Paul Greenaway: Energy Synergy
- Feature: Public Art Gets Serious
- Feature: The Commercial Dealer as Patron
- Feature: The Fork in the Road: Art for Profit or not for Profit?
- Feature: The Ideal Gallery: If Pigs Could Fly
- Feature: The Lockhart River Gang
- Feature: The New Artplace
- Feature: Turning Artists into Subcontractors: The Artworkers Alliance
- Profile: Artists in Landscape: The South West
- Profile: Building Bridge (or Sand Castles)
- Profile: Jurek Wybraniec: Connections
- Profile: Lorrean Grant: High Performance
- Profile: Make Art Will Travel: Hans Arkeveld, Tanija & Grahan Carr, Wendy Lugg, Angela Mellor
- Profile: Max Pam: International Photographer
- Profile: Rodney Glick: Working Smart
- Profile: Tony Nathan: On a Cool Winter Mourning
- Review: (The World May Be)Fantastic 2002 Biennale of Sydney
- Review: Art On A String
- Review: Bill Brandt: A Retrospective
- Review: Brian Blanchflower From the Generative Eye: Paintings 1990-2001
- Review: Deeper Places
- Review: Hatched 02: Healthway National Graduate Show
- Review: Landscape and Nocturne Images of Night and Darkness from Colonial to Contemporary
- Review: Malewitsch [A Political Arm] Mike Parr
- Review: Matthew Ngui
- Review: Mutable Spaces
- Review: New Art Spaces in South Australia
- Review: The Oval Window: Ian Friend
- Review: The Shape of Air