New Exhibitions Projects Initiatives

Warburton Art in China
The latest international blockbuster at the Shanghai Art Museum Our Land - Our Body: Tu Di – Shen Ti is the largest exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art to visit China and will continue to tour major cities in 2011. The exhibition features 65 works in painting, video, photography, sound and projection from the Warburton Ranges, one of the remotest places on earth – about halfway between Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Gary Proctor is the exhibition organiser and manager of the Warburton Arts Project.

Tu Di - Shen Ti is travelling to six venues - Shanghai Art Museum; Nanjing Museum; Today Art Museum, Beijing; the Xi'An Art Museum; Wuhan Art Museum; Zhejiang Art Museum; Dongguan Guancheng Art Museum, Guangzhou; and more in the pipeline. The profile of Australian Indigenous art and culture in China is minimal, and the interest of the museums in this exhibition is high because of the sense of breaking new ground. The show was one of the key closing events for the Year of Australian Culture in China Imagine Australia over April - June 2011.

Gary Proctor has worked for the last two decades with the Ngaanyatjarra people, a desert community that has now grown to about 3,000 people. Most of his time has been spent developing artists’ skills and working with elders to gather the ancient stories and songs, which have now become messages to the outside world. None of the works in Tu Di - Shen Ti are for sale, and they will remain the property of the Ngaanyatjarra people. The China project has engaged Gary Proctor with a Chinese team, and his wife Zhou Ling Ling as project manager, for two years, and their efforts have paid off – 85,000 visitors saw the show in Shanghai in March 2011.

Trying to capture a sense of the desert, the vast skies and landscape of the Warburton Ranges area was achieved by placing photographs and audio-visual components, like the sound of the wind, alongside the paintings. There were also recordings of community members and elders speaking and singing. Gary Proctor has had to negotiate secret-sacred issues in which the titles of some works are so sacred that it is forbidden to speak them aloud. He has sought to convey how the work deals with the interconnectedness of all in the spiritual cosmos of the artists.

On its return to Australia in 2013 the exhibition will open at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Report complied with acknowledgements to Din Heagney’s The Foreign Art Office, his art writing project funded by the Australia Council, based on travels to China and USA in 2011. See

Western APY Lands 'boutique’ art to Europe
Ninuku Arts, Tjungu Playa and Tjala Arts are the source of Western APY Lands, a substantial group exhibition showcasing the western APY district that is touring from May to October 2011 to four private art museums and galleries in Germany. These three art centres in South Australia’s far north are not unique in their extreme isolation, but being nearly 1,500 km from Adelaide and two days travel from Alice Springs they are certainly amongst the most isolated. German publicity has characterised them as ‘boutique’ centres in an attempt to convey that they are small but extremely vibrant in their art practice, their management and as proved by this massive international exercise, highly entrepreneurial. Western APY Lands is the largest exhibition of Australian Indigenous art ever to be shown in Europe.

Starting at Kunstwerk in Stuttgart from 8 May – 5 June, Western APY Lands will be at the organising gallery Kelch Art in Freiburg from 11 June – 9 July moving on to Emmanuel Walderdorff Galerie in Cologne from 16 July to 13 August and the Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig from 16 September – 30 October. Australian Robyn Kelch, director of Kelch Art, a gallery dedicated to exhibiting ethically sourced contemporary Australian Indigenous art, has curated the exhibition. Western APY Lands is a component of the exhibition series Pro Community organised under the auspices of the Australian Embassy in Berlin and assisted by the Australia Council.

An excellent 40-page catalogue with essays and pages on each artist is available from Kelch Art.
The art centres will be represented on the tour by artists Keith Stevens and Ginger Wikilyiri from Tjungu Palya; Molly Nampitjin Miller and Yaritji Connelly from Ninuku Arts; and art centre managers Claire Eltringham, Amanda Dent and Brian Hallett.

In praise of philanthropy
In 2008 Deborah Sims and Matt Dickson, residents of the Upper Hunter Valley in NSW, embarked on an engaged and self-informing collecting venture, inspired by the example of well-known and respected art collectors Colin and Elizabeth Laverty. Like the Lavertys, they are passionate about sharing the works in their custodianship and it was in this infectious spirit of conversion that Strong Women, Strong Painting, Strong Culture was launched at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery in 2011, in the heart of Darkinjung country – perhaps better known as coal and wine country.

Strong Women commemorated the Centenary of International Women’s Day, and senior artists Kay and Gladys Beasley travelled from Wutungurra in the NT to talk about their lives and work on 8 March 2011. Cessnock Gallery’s director Virginia Mitchell embraced the concept and the opportunity. Clearly fitting a regional gallery brief by linking gender, history, culture and community, the exhibition spilled off the walls and onto the floor, giving a distinct sensation of walking into the desert-scented creative chaos of a community art centre – the origin of many of the pieces.

Works spanning over twenty years by women artists from 22 communities, many within the APY/border lands of SA, NT and WA, as well as Alice Springs town camps, were represented in no particular hierarchy and while some works are not the most outstanding (or massive) examples by given artists, presented collectively they conveyed an organic vibrancy which gave Strong Women its currency.

This is an idiosyncratic exhibition, refreshing in its immediacy and eclecticism. Sims and Dickson’s commitment to a well-researched catalogue locates the work and provides personal insight. It could be dismissed as a vanity in certain circles, but Strong Women proves independence, action and vision as hallmarks of what must be applauded and encouraged: diverse cultural philanthropy.

The exhibition can be seen at Casula Powerhouse Art Centre 24 June – 7 August 2011.

Una Rey

One Clan, Three Hands and two Bills
A collaboration between the Buku Larnggay Art Centre at Yirrkala in NE Arnhem Land and Niagara Galleries in Melbourne recently brought an experience to southerners that has been preserved in a perfect small catalogue of the 2011 exhibition One Clan Three Hands. Niagara’s Bill Nuttall has long been an aficionado, and since 2005 has mounted four exhibitions of the art of this region. Buku Larnggay’s Bill Stubbs, as manager of the centre, looks after the many extraordinary talents whose works are made in or pass through the centre and its studio-workshop.

Niagara Galleries has made its name representing a wide range of Australian artists; when it comes to Indigenous art Bill Nuttall’s radar locks onto a particular point on the spectrum – the artists of the Wanambi clan, one of about twenty clans of the area. This year the two Bills brought together three artists who had shown in prior years at Niagara. As Bill Stubbs writes: "There is nothing common to their work but the invisible spiritual identity that underpins it. They live in different places, paint different estates and designs and with different approaches." Understanding the complexity of the subject matter of these exquisite pieces is the stuff of scholarship, as it deals with the origins of the topography and the divisions of not only the people into moieties and sub-groups but all aspects of the natural world, including the winds.

“Lunggurrma, the North wind from Sulawesi, is Yirritja. The south easterlies from Thredbo are Dhuwa.” Beneath the designs and semi-hidden are the coded signals for the ancient knowledge of these things. A meaty essay in the catalogue by Howard Morphy explains the means by which these stories and concepts are visually represented.

One Clan Three Hands comprised bark paintings and poles by Garawan Wanambi, Wolpa Wanambi and Wukun Wanambi 8 – 5 March 2011.
Catalogue available from


Speaking in Colour
The Newcastle Region Art Gallery exhibition Speaking in Colour explores colour as a means of expression in art by Indigenous artists. It underscores rich conceptual differences in naming, using and understanding colour across diverse language groups. Drawing on works from the gallery’s collection, it spans island, coastal and desert communities. Several recent acquisitions including a suite of 27 Ntaria (Hermannsburg) watercolours from c.1946-53 and works by Daniel Walbidi, Sally Gabori, Emily Kam Ngwarreye, Kitty Kantilla and others made up the exhibition.

Guest curator Una Rey who has worked in the Indigenous art centres of Haasts Bluff, Balgo and Milikapiti, writes: “The idea behind Speaking in colour came from a discussion I had with young artists at the small community of Tjukurla, west of Uluru. We were creating a colour wheel ‘in language’, situating a Western tradition of understanding colour within the art centre studio. The artists were guiding me phonetically, but when it came to blue, the women told me outright that there was no word for it. ‘We might say puli patu, like far-away hills or rocks’. Words for colour, beyond pigment, appear linked to natural phenomena: clear skies, distant ranges and permanent or ‘living’ water. The word for clear sky, ilkari and vegetation, ukiri, can relate to blue and green respectively.”

This innovative and seductive exhibition illustrates the history of the use of ochres and other naturally sourced colours, the introduction of Western paint, and the meaning of colour across the Aboriginal nations. It was on at Newcastle Region Art Gallery from 19 March – 29 May 2011. An excellent education resource is downloadable from

Groundwork at Ian Potter Museum
The art of Kimberley artists Butcher Cherel, Mick Jawalji and Rammy Ramsey employ different formal and conceptual techniques to explore the tensions between story-telling, representation and picture-making. The concept of ‘country’ and its depiction within a cultural framework guides ideas, stories and forms relating to specific places. Cherel’s fields of varied mark-making, Jawalji’s striking geometry and Ramsey’s free-floating pictographic representations are dynamic individual variations among the established forms of art-making in the region.
Guest Curator: Quentin Sprague
Ian Potter Museum, University of Melbourne.
3 August to 23 October 2011

Motika (motor car) stories captured on film
The Motika Project is an innovative arts-based three year project based at Warlayirti Artists Aboriginal Corporation which aims to shift behaviours and perceptions by and about Aboriginal Australians by building awareness and education about the role of the motika (motor car) in the lives of Aboriginal Australians living on remote communities and celebrating the humour and creativity of Indigenous Australians in the telling of motika stories. The project is in the form of workshops and exhibitions in photography, advertising and painting and ultimately a new film work about this all-important part of contemporary Indigenous culture which can wreak devastation on lives in remote areas, with many drivers ending up in the justice system.

As this multi-faceted project unfolds, much has been achieved already. A brand new Audi Roadstar TT provided by Audi Japan, with an enhanced GPS navigation system adapted to echo the traditional navigation of Country, was painted up on-site in Audi’s Tokyo space with seven artists travelling to Japan in 2010.

Photographic tutors Maylei Hunt, Steve Rhall and Steven Pearce have engaged at least 25 young men and women in the photography program resulting in exhibitions in Balgo and Singapore. Films are being produced with local scriptwriters, directors and editors including David Lans being mentored by filmmakers Gaby Mason and Luke Nicholls. Community agencies who worked with the participants included the Balgo Police, Luurnpa Catholic School, Palylatju Maparnpa Health Committee, Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation and Kutjungka Catholic Parish.


Flying in to experience remote centre art
Airborne in a twin-engined plane across craggy escarpments hiding mysterious rock art figures, or flying low over rhythmic desert dunes, Helen Read’s Palya Art Tours help visitors to experience the richness of First Nation Australia.

Brought up in the UK, Helen studied fine art and nursing. Arriving in Australia after working in West Africa she decided that midwifery and a pilot’s license would be useful. Involved in early health care operations in the Gibson Desert in the 1980s, Helen’s experiences there out-shocked her war-zone Africa memories. She swore to bring an awareness of the miserable conditions to those with influence and means, who might spearhead changes for the better.

Meanwhile the artworks she saw revealed powerful Pintupi worlds; autobiographies and cultural histories radiated from paintings to those whose eyes were opened. So in a remarkable pioneering enterprise, Helen Read, with the help of community members, worked toward bringing ‘whitefellas’ out to ‘learn them up’, on the artists’ terms. For 25 years now she has been flying people to meet artists and community members at a large network of remote art centres in the north and northwest of Australia from the desert to the Kimberley, and east to Arnhem Land, where artworks are shown, discussed, enjoyed and often purchased. Since 2000 Helen has made a significant collection of around 300 pieces which are held within the Flinders University Art Museum collection in Adelaide, and from which three touring exhibitions have been put together for destinations including Paris.

Art centres also consign artworks to Palya Art for annual exhibitions held in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Paris. Helen reports that many French viewers seem to readily grasp the significance of the art, and are awestruck by the aerial views combined with cultural law. Enthusiasts are encouraged to fly directly to the art centres, meet the artists in person, see and feel the country. Flying over peoples’ painterly lands Helen says she often sees ‘the penny drop’ as images start making deep sense. Feeling the art and culture come alive through their eyes, lives are never the same again. Palya Art Tours (formerly Didgeri Air Art Tours) fly a maximum of seven people for five days visiting 5 or 6 communities. This year they visit the Kimberley August 15 - 19 and Desert Lands September 5th - 9th.

Showing in France has become a fixture each autumn and Palya Art’s fifth exhibition in Paris runs from 6 October to 6 November 2011, kindly hosted by Cabinet Malemont, 42 Avenue du President Wilson, Paris, FRANCE F-75116. To visit call Helen’s French mobile: 06 45 52 54 37 from late September.

In March 2012 Palya Art returns for the 13th year to exhibit in Melbourne. Mobile + 61 (0) 418 137719 Phone & Fax + 61 (0) 8 89485055

University museums show of strength
For the first time, the combined strengths of Curtin, Edith Cowan and Murdoch University Art Collections will unite to present Evolving Identities: Contemporary Indigenous Art 1970 – 2010, an exhibition spanning an extraordinary era of Australian Indigenous art practice. University art collections play a significant role researching and exhibiting Indigenous art in order to educate both Australians and other nations. The exhibition provides reference points for cultural practice and offers commentaries on an inclusive contemporary Australian Society.

In developing Evolving Identities, the curators Connie Petrillo (ECU) Mark Stewart (Murdoch) and Pauline Williams (Curtin) also considered art as a vehicle for the survival and revival of culture. Artworks were selected from each collection not only by artists who explore identity and their ongoing connection to country but also those by artists who recognise the influence of others as role models.

Works by urban artists Brenda Croft, Julie Gough and Tony Albert exploit, subvert or parody language to interrogate histories and form a narrative which underlies the cultural alienation and displacement of Aboriginal people since invasion. Works by artists who practice within remote communities, including Rover Thomas, Churchill Cann, Queenie MacKenzie and Patrick Mung Mung, illustrate an ongoing connection to country.

Evolving Identities: Contemporary Indigenous Art 1970 – 2010
John Curtin Gallery 13 May – 6 July 2011


Stone Country Festival and the last of the great
Ubarr men
One of Australia’s national living treasures, Kalarriya ‘Jimmy’ Namarnyilk is the last remaining ‘old school’ artist who continues to practice painting in the single line rarrk style. His father was one of the great Ubarr ceremony men who passed down his knowledge and authority to his son. This has allowed Jimmy to continue painting the secret ritual of the Ubarr ceremony and dances. Jimmy is now known as the most senior law man, ritual specialist and singer of western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Jimmy commenced painting at the emergence of the indigenous art movement along with his brother-in-law Wamud Namok who together pioneered the traditional style of the Kunwinjku rock art and transferred this to bark and paper. Kalarriya’s art remains a testament to the traditional rock art and conveys the stories of the animals, dreaming, ancient ancestors and spiritual beings that have passed through his country.

Jimmy’s cousin Don Namundja, also a senior law man of the Arnhem Land area found his love for art in the wet season of 2002, when a call came from Wamud’s camp saying that this little fella wanted some materials to try his hand at painting. As a result a beautiful, delicate and intricate line was formed as a tribute to the old school style.

Together Jimmy and Don are increasingly unique artists who spend a lot of their time at Injalak Arts and Crafts centre in Gunbalanya, talking about the old days, important dreaming stories and teaching the younger men about Bim (the big stories, the art, the painting and the big picture of the dreaming).

Injalak Arts will feature both Jimmy and Don’s work during the annual Stone Country Festival, a day-long event on 27 August 2011 in the revamped fine arts gallery The Bim Gallery.

Umbrella and the amazing Murris in Ink
A group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in the Townsville region who participated in print workshops at Umbrella Studio in Townsville from 2008, recently formed themselves into a print collective called Murris in Ink. The group, comprising James Billy, Gail Mabo, Aicey Zaro, Shirley Yumala Collins, Susan Nampitjin Peters, Ian Kaddy and Donna Ives, have gone from strength to strength, exceeding their own expectations for excellence and in 2009 were commissioned by Indigenous Business Australia to create no less than 450 prints for the Holiday Inn Townsville.

In June 2010 the group was invited by Cairns Indigenous Art Fair to create a folio of new works on paper to be showcased at the fair that year. The deadly seven collaborated with Master printer Ron McBurnie from Monsoon Publishing in Townsville who supported the creative project and the printing, resulting in a stunning collection of 11 linocut prints Ngapa/ Kai Kai (water/food). The folio was purchased by private and public collections including the Queensland State Library and Perc Tucker Regional Gallery and was selected by the Queensland Arts Council to tour for the next two years. Spurred on by this success they are creating another body of work, with support from new CIAF Director Avril Quail, to be launched in the Umbrella Studio booth at the Fair in August 2011.

Stills Gallery in Sydney have secured the first showing in a private gallery of the 3D animated short film Stranded by Warwick Thornton, plus stills from the film, from 7 September – 8 October 2011. The debut of this enigmatic work which was commissioned by the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival in March created much interest and debate. This is the first animation from the wunderkind director, whose first feature film Samson and Delilah received international critical acclaim. Thornton was interviewed at the opening of the BAFF saying he liked the idea that viewers would have to make up their own minds about the meaning of the imagery. The high tech cross and melodramatic 3D enhanced landscape together with a bored-looking stockman ‘Jesus’ in the person of the filmmaker, tied onto the cross with ropes, is both an ironic and a layered image with a variety of resonances for different viewers.


Boost to Indigenous art collection at the NGV
On the 24th of May 2011, the National Gallery of Victoria turns 150. To honour this remarkable milestone, the Felton Bequest gifted the NGV 173 stunning Indigenous artworks including three by contemporary artists Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew and Jonathan Jones who were commissioned to create works that pay homage to the highly celebrated Indigenous artist, William Barak.

These pieces were gifted by the Felton Bequest established in 1904 to manage the gift of NGV’s greatest benefactor, Alfred Felton. Dr Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said: “This is the most significant gift of Indigenous art to the NGV since the Gallery opened its doors for the first time on this date 150 years ago in paen (freshwater) country of the Kulin nation. It is appropriate on this date to honour the memory of Alfred Felton and also celebrate the art of our country.”

The gift of 173 works encompasses two exceptional collections comprising 63 nineteenth and early twentieth century shields on display as part of the Australian Art collection, and 107 twenty-first century paintings from the Western Desert, forming the new exhibition Living Water.

The multi-media installation by Vernon Ah Kee presents conversations between prominent indigenous people as they reflect on how Barak has inspired them. Brook Andrew, renowned for his multi-disciplinary works, has created a powerful installation for the entrance atrium at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Jonathan Jones has embraced the natural world creating a mechanically-living work that honours Barak’s life.

The collection of 63 stunningly beautiful 19th century shields are contemporary with Barak. The shields serve to remind us that once the plains of Southeast Australia were populated with carved trees bearing elegant inscriptions, and people dressed in possum-skin cloaks and carrying elaborate shields lived extraordinary lives with dignity and honour for their achievements.

Living Water, an exhibition which showcases the Gift paintings, displays contemporary works by male and female artists from the Far Western Desert, an area stretching across parts of Western Australia, South Australia that radiate out from the tri-state border.

This exhibition of 21st century art highlights today’s momentous art movement which originated at Papunya in 1971-72 when senior men decoded their archival narratives and laws forging a new art form based on designs shared by many Indigenous peoples across the Western Desert.

These Felton Bequest acquisitions will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Melbourne’s Federation Square from 24 May until late 2011. Open 10am–5pm, Tues–Sun. Free entry.

Papunya Tula:
Looking Back
In late September 2011 NGV Federation Square will be showing about 220 works and 120 objects in an epochal exhibition featuring the very first paintings to come out of Papunya (1970-72) curated by Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, NGV and Dr Philip Batty, Senior Curator, Anthropology, Museum Victoria.

Top artists run prison workshops
In a groundbreaking project funded by ArtsNSW and in conjunction with the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, high profile Aboriginal artists, including Daniel Boyd, Karla Dickens, Adam Hill, Andrea James, Warwick Keen, Gary Lee, Max Miller and Jason Wing, will conduct art workshops at the Goulburn Correctional Centre with the Aboriginal inmates at the new Aboriginal Cultural Centre Nurra Warra Umer. Djon Mundine is curator of this project and has selected the artists to participate in the workshops that will culminate in an exhibition of both the artists and the inmates’ works at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 3 November to 3 December, 2011.The workshops have been running each month since February and will continue throughout 2011. After each workshop at the Correctional Centre, the artists give a public lecture at the Gallery. This is a unique opportunity for the regional community to hear from high profile successful artists about their work and a way to engage with the local Indigenous families who live in the region. The lectures start at 3pm and dates for the talks are published on the gallery website, or for more details please phone 02 48 234494.

Learning and mentoring in Perth
Revealed is a showcase of emerging art and artists from Aboriginal art centres across Western Australia with the purpose of building markets for their work.
Aboriginal artists and managers from the Centres will be in Perth in October/November 2011 for the exhibition and a three-day Professional Development program, including art workshops through to management practices. In addition, two Aboriginal artsworkers will gain skills and be mentored as part of Revealed. The highlight will be a marketplace where visitors can buy direct from Centres.

The project is part of the CHOGM Cultural Festival and is being produced in partnership with the Department of Culture and the Arts and supported by the Department of Indigenous Affairs. It will be focused around the art school and Gallery Central at Central Institute of Technology, 12 Aberdeen St, Perth where the inaugural Revealed project was conducted in 2008.

The Revealed Marketplace will be held at Gallery Central at Central Institute of Technology, 12 Aberdeen St, Perth on the weekend of 29/30 October 2011.

The Martu land project
Mapping Country; Martu perceptions of environment and landscape (working title) is a major project between the Martu (the traditional owners of the Western Desert in Western Australia) Martumili Artists, Fremantle Arts Centre and Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (a chapter of Reconciliation Australia). The main themes running through this project – environment, Country, land management and mapping – will be explored through exhibitions and public programs running from November 2012 to January 2013, in the galleries and grounds of Fremantle Arts Centre.

This project is an exciting opportunity to share and explore the diversity of Martu perspectives of Country and the continuing centrality of Country (including flora and fauna) to their identity, culture and economy. It promotes a strong engagement with issues of sustainability and the value of our indigenous communities.

The Big Wet at Warmun: testing times
Email letter from Maggie Fletcher, Manager at Warnum Art Centre, in the Kimberley, 15 March 2011

“Warmun Art Centre has been almost destroyed. We lost about 90% of the works – washed away down the river – but by grace of being in an enclosed space have saved at least half of the community’s archival collection – many rather sodden and covered in mud but if we are allowed to stay, we hope to get them dried out before they are mouldy and ruined. It has been so wonderful to have so many offers of help but unfortunately there is no way in. The roads are still cut in both directions and may be for some time as bridges and roads need major reconstruction.

After weeks of heavy rain and in particular overnight into Sunday 13th, Turkey Creek rose to levels that have devastated the Warmun community. We always thought the art centre may have been built a bit low down but who would have thought that the school could ever be in danger- they have lost everything. The water inundated the whole community and spread across about 2 km with water pouring onto us from all sides. Sunday morning we were getting nervous about the way the creek was rising so we stacked all the paintings in the art gallery onto tables so ‘just in case’ the water did get as high as the floor, then at least the paintings would not get wet. Little could we comprehend how high the water would go and how ferocious its force. When even the studio looked to be in danger Gary ran in and managed to get as much as he could up to higher shelving but then ran out in danger of being trapped as the water rose so quickly. Then the sickening sound of the gallery walls collapsing.

“The main thing is – the Warmun Art Centre will be rebuilt. The artists are saying – we will start again – build it up – make it strong again – when we get back. The community is being evacuated. We are staying as long as we can to secure what is left and to dry out as much as we can. We don't yet know what is left. Please don’t forget us, Warmun Art will return and we are all working towards restoring the community who have lost their homes and everything in them. This is their country, its where they grew up and it’s their place and needs to be so they will not give up in getting their community rebuilt and coming back as soon as possible.”

Subsequent news from Warnum was the arrival of a team of conservators from Melbourne University in a helicopter funded by mining giant Rio Tinto. The artworks were shipped to Melbourne where conservation work has been carried out and a good proportion of the precious paintings have been saved.