Issue 33:2 | June 2013 | Indigenous: Re-visions
Indigenous: Re-visions
Issue 33:2 | June 2013


Good Medicine
Being Aboriginal doesn’t make you wise, spiritual or even good at art. Being Aboriginal is historical just like being any other nationality or ethnicity. All art can be examined ethnographically, all people can be examined ethnographically.
The dearth of criticism
Some artists are often heard to complain about the lack of honest criticism of Aboriginal art. But in such a limited sphere, criticising an Aboriginal artist in formal or aesthetic terms, or at a deeper level, is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Too often, critics play the man and not the ball. Can we handle the truth?
Let's be polite

Editor Daniel Browning interviews artist Vernon Ah Kee who discusses the lack of criticism of Aboriginal art and the abundance of 'mass production' Aboriginal art emanating from remote communities seen by some as 'real Aboriginal art' but in the eyes of Ah Kee simply and uncritically playing into false romantic notions of the lives of Aboriginal people.

Toward Indigenous Criticism: The Ah Kee paradox
Métis artist, curator and academic David Garneau explores the current situation of indigenous art through increasing global links and connections. 
Ich Bin Ein Aratjara: 20 years later
Aboriginal super-curator Djon Mundine, who travelled to Europe in 1994 as touring curator with the significant exhibition Aratjara: art of the first Australians, looks back at the genesis and reception of that exhibition. He asks where is the political impetus evident in Aratjara today and where is the Aboriginal input into the development of national survey exhibitions.
The limits of criticism
Anthropologist John Carty casts his eyes over the last ten years of writing on Desert art, mostly in newspapers, and finds many cliches and inconsistencies. He asks: "Where are the fine-grained localised art histories, the rich biographies of our most interesting and important individual artists? Where are their voices?" And replies: "They are still waiting in the Desert."
My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Interview with Bruce McLean
On curating My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia, opening at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane on 1 June 2013. 
The archive in the contemporary
The artworks of Danie Mellor, Brian Robinson and Christian Thompson each draw on archival material for subject matter, for inspiration, and to develop new work that harks back and forward at the same time.
Spirits beyond borders: Shadowlife
Curator and Associate Director of Taiwan Culture and Creative Platform Foundation Antoanetta Ivanovna, resident in Taiwan since 2011, discusses the travelling exhibition Shadowlife curated by Djon Mundine and Natalie King, and its impact in Taiwan where consciousness of their indigenous people is not as developed as it is in Australia.
Ghostnets go global, and local
Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned at sea, lost accidentally, or deliberately discarded. The GhostNet Project, which began on islands and in communities around the top of Australia, uses the nets to make artworks, to raise awareness of marine pollution, to be creative. Awareness of Ghostnets is on the rise both nationally and internationally.
Disquiet and resistance in the art of Julie Gough
Senior Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria Judith Ryan surveys the complex and inventive art practice of Julie Gough who is concerned with "developing a visual language to engage with the unsettling space between conflicting and subsumed Australian histories."
Ken Thaiday Senior, Darnley Man
Exhibitions Manager at Cairns Regional Gallery Justin Bishop tells the rich story of how Ken Thaiday Sr. came to be a major Torres Strait Islander artist. In August 2013, Cairns Regional Gallery, in partnership with Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), will be presenting a survey exhibition of Ken Thaiday Sr.’s work.
Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri curator and lecturer Jirra Harvey traces the career of self-taught graffiti and studio artist Reko Rennie. He uses a traditional Kamilaroi patterning in neon and in graffiti as a contemporary statement of sovereignity. Harvey says: "The subtext to such works is a running narrative on government practices that work to control and restrain Aboriginal communities and the subsequent rebellion of the people."
Jimmy Pike: there is more
Curator and writer Karen Dayman fills in the background of the development of the work and broadens the profile of Great Sandy Desert artist Jimmy Pike whose skills took him around the world and into collaborations with Desert Designs, with his partner Pat Lowe and with the theatre.
The road to Pormpuraaw
Filmmaker Peter Hylands writes about a recent visit to the remote Pormpuraaw Art Centre in Far North Queensland. Here he talks with artist Sid Bruce Short Joe who speaks nine languages, the ninth is English.
Rainforest identity (past and future)
Napolean Oui is a Cairns-based, mid-career, Djabugay artist and a proud advocate of the rainforest art style unique to Far North Queensland. 2012 was a breakthrough year for him, he did a residency at Studio PM with Paul Machnik and others in Montreal, developed new work at Djumbunji Press for a solo show at Kickarts Contemporary Arts in Cairns during the Art Fair, AND sold work to the National Gallery of Australia.
String theory: Karen Mills
Michelle Culpitt examines the work practice of Northern Territory artist Karen Mills whose paintings are inspired by the string bags made by the women weavers of Arnhem Land. Culpitt writes: "The articulation of her painterly vision is only possible at the nexus of her experience and influences as an Aboriginal woman in contemporary Australia, a place of both deep connection and belonging to country, and also disjuncture and dislocation from a nation in denial of its own history."
Black prints* @ Cicada Press
Cicada Press is a research group within the School of Art at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (COFA UNSW). For the past six years Cicada Press, with Tess Allas from the School of Art History and Art Education, have been working closely with a number of Aboriginal artists from across the country.
New currency: Ryan Presley
Ryan Presley's 2011 series 'Blood Money' is remarkable. These commemorative banknotes substitute the heroes of the white Australian monoculture (Banjo Patterson, Dame Mary Gilmore, Dame Nellie Melba and Sir Henry Parkes) with Aboriginal heroes, resistance fighters such as Pemulwuy, his son Tjedaberiyn (also known as Tedbury), Dundalli and Jandamarra and others such as the Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari who led the Wave Hill walk-off, and the late Wik elder Gladys Tybingoompa.
Gulumbu Yunupingu (1943–2012)
People in Nhulunbuy still talk wonderingly about the last days of Gulumbu Yunupingu’s life. Something happened. Something changed. For nine days the monolithic concrete hospital in the sterile mining town threw open its doors and for nine days the Yolngu ceremony ground flowed in.
Jean Baptiste Apuatimi (1940–2013)
Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia James Bennett writes with affection about the life and work of highly respected Tiwi artist Jean Baptiste Apuatimi. He describes the way she would not repeat a formula in her art but constantly push aesthetic boundaries in exploring new themes.
Pamela Anne Johnston Dahl-Helm (1947–2013)

Pam was a proud Bundjalung woman. An artist, mother, grandmother, sister and friend to many, a long-term resident of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, she was a true leftie, advocating for social justice, equality and the rights of minority groups.

Harry James Wedge (1957–2012)
Assistant Curator of Indigenous Heritage Collections at the Macleay Museum Matt Poll writes a thoughtful, engaging and detailed account of the life and art of Harry Wedge, known as 'Big H' in his home community in Cowra. Poll says:" Harry’s artistic career remained an enigma to those closest to him throughout his life. His work is an exemplary case of an Australian outsider art – though not in the conventional definition."
Thancoupie/Thanakupi (1937–2011)
Thancoupie (aka Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher James AO) was a trailblazer in Aboriginal art, studying, showing and making work in ceramics for many years. Her work was shown nationally and internationally. After many years she returned home to Weipa, and while still making and exhibiting, focused much of her attention on her family, community, land rights and the next generations.
Desert Lake
Curator: Mandy Martin Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs 2 March – 14 April 2013
Fernando do Campo: Onomatopoeia
Academy Gallery, Launceston, TAS 1 February – 8 March 2013
Curator: Lisa Bryan-Brown Hold Artspace, Brisbane 1–17 March 2013
Louise Bourgeois: Late Works
Curator: Jason Smith Heide Museum of Modern Art 21 November 2012 – 11 March 2013
Mouths and Meaning Bronwyn Platten, Sarah Coggrave and others
Australian Experimental Art Foundation Adelaide 1 February – 2 March 2013
New Olds - Design between Tradition and Innovation
Curator: Volker Albus RMIT Gallery, Melbourne 7 December 2012 – 9 March 2013
Curator: Toni Bailey Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 9 February – 24 March 2013
Savanhdary Vongpoothorn: The Beautiful as Force
Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney 7–31 March 2013
Curators: Tony Jones, Joanna Robertson Kidogo Arthouse and Bathers Beach Arts Precinct, Fremantle 16 March – 1 April 2013
Testing Ground
Curator: Julie Gough Artists: The 1491s, Ólöf Björnsdóttir, Trudi Brinckman, Darren Cook, Rebecca Dagnall, Sue Kneebone, Nancy Mauro-Flude, Jeroen Offerman, Perdita Phillips, r e a, Keren Ruki, Christian Thompson, Martin Walch, Siying Zhou Long Gallery, Salamanca Art Centre, Hobart 14 March – 28 April 2013
tough(er) love: art from Eyre Peninsula
Curator: John Neylon Flinders University Art Museum 28 February – 28 April 2013
odradek is a window exhibition space at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide. nungaodradek is a season of works by four emerging nunga (Aboriginal) artists based in South Australia curated by Ali Gumillya Baker. Their overall theme is sovereign protest.