The annual prelude to the big Telstra NATSIAAs show has hit the ether just a tad en retard!

But it looks to be worth the wait with 45 artists covering the field from bark painting to multi-media. Is this the first time the Salon has taken on board a multi-media work rejected by the Big Boys at the Museum & Art Gallery of the NT?

The commercial gallerists behind the Salon – Matt Ward from Outstation and Paul Johnstone with his eponymous gallery – seem pretty keen on the Spinifex mob this year; or are they just reflecting that mob’s prolixity? A solo show outside the Salon for young Timo Hogan has already been mentioned and now, in the Salon, they have the more traditional paintings of Ian Rictor and Lennard Walker, giving glorious colour to the implacable deserts just north of the Nullarbor where they’ve resolutely decided to live – after exile during the criminal Maralinga testing times – and fiercely recalling the stories that have lain under and on top of the salt lakes, waterholes and desert tali from time immemorial.

Their lock on Country, now passing from generation to generation, must be respected and, in the commercial world way beyond their Tjuntjuntjara home, should be paid for generously.

Another region that all the information coming out of Darwin seems to confirm is flowering are the Tiwi Islands. Four artists from three art centres on the islands have made the Salon cut and the stylistic range is pretty wide, without any work denying its Tiwi origins. While Paulina Puruntatameri describes the marks the tides leave on Tiwi sands quite abstractly, the wonderfully named Jonathan World Peace Bush offers a surprisingly jolly diptych showing traditional culture being maintained even as colonialists invade with guns and horses.

Joey Nganjmirra from Injalak Art centre is also into history – with a more Pearsonian take on the Australian story. For him, a chaotic scene based on Western Arnhemland rock wall figures reflects the world of the Nayuhyungki/First Peoples, interrupted by an unpeopled ship carrying Captain Cook – more symbol than man. Emerging below, in the shadows of that emblematic shield supported by roo and emu, bininj and balanda are cooperating to create a new family tree.

Rock art figures also appear surprisingly on a sun mat by Robyn Nabegeyo. And there are surprises from Buku Larrnggay Art Centre where the redoubtable Guynbi Ganambarr is making sculptures from fencing wire – still locked into his Blue Mud Bay legends, of course, while Barayuwa Mununggurr has borrowed Guynbi’s engraving tools and aluminium sheets to create a startling work, though it’s still telling his familiar whale myth. Now it’s linked to one of the Salon’s eight outpost shows, ‘Murrŋiny‘ – suggesting that Yolngu pioneered the adoption of metal in Australia from the earliest arrival of Makassans on their shores.

Guynbi has a challenger!

Can you bring to mind the great Johnny Warangkula’s busily dotted paintings veiling Kalipinypa, the legendary Water Dreaming site in the Western Desert? Well, his inheritors in Papunya see it rather differently. And both, in the Salon, are women – for Nakamarra, Tjakamarra, Napurrula and Tjupurrula men and women are all custodians of this Country. So, Candy Nelson offers a delicate wash of colours as seen through rheumy eyes – drawing the important features of the land “so that they pop up” from her “breathing” canvas. Maureen Poulson sees the same place in a whirl of intersecting black lines on white. Invention thrives at Papunya Tjupi Art Centre.

Individual voices that stand out at the Salon are surely headed by the outrageous Gloria – the Sally Gabori of the Pilbara – who leapt out of the blocks in 2015, had her first solo in 2018 and, unlike Gabori, is a mere baby at 45. Gwenneth Blitner from Ngukurr also delighted with suggestions of a return to that art centre’s early floral days – reminiscent of Willy Gudupi and all those Joshua women; with just a hint of Douanier Rousseau!


Artist: Timo Hogan, Ian Rictor, Lennard Walker, Paulina Puruntatameri, Jonathan World Peace Bush, Joey Nganjmirra, Robyn Nabegeyo, Guynbi Ganambarr, Barayuwa Mununggurr, Johnny Warangkula, Candy Nelson, Maureen Poulson, Gloria, Sally Gabori, Gwenneth Blitner, Willy Gudupi,

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Tags: Barayuwa Mununggurr , Candy Nelson , darwin , gloria , Guynbi Ganambarr , Gwenneth Blitner , ian rictor , Jeremy Eccles , Joey Nganjmirra , johnny warangkula , Jonathan World Peace Bush , lennard walker , Matt Ward , Maureen Poulson , Paul Johnstone , Paulina Puruntatameri , Robyn Nabegeyo , sally gabori , Salon des Refuses , Timo Hogan , Willy Gudupi ,