Well not quite “ but bloody close! Christie’s, the international auctioneers, has put out three lists of Must-See exhibitions “ in America, Europe and the Rest of the World. And, surprisingly, Mornington Island’s Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey’s ‘Stories of this Land’ at QAGoMA in Brisbane is rated as the 5th finest show in the last group. This puts him ahead of Picasso, Alexander Calder, Shiota Chiharu and the Istanbul Biennial!
Admittedly, Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Louise Bourgeois in Beijing and the long-awaited opening of the Qatar National Museum on 28th March are considered finer treats. But it’s not half bad for a stolen gen Lardil kid brought up by missionaries, half blind from cattle blight and best known as a children’s book illustrator. Two of his books “ ‘Rainbow Serpent‘ and ‘The Quinkans‘ won Children’s Picture Book of the Year awards.
Roughsey came to art from the stockman’s world in 1962 via a meeting with artist and explorer, Percy Tresize “ with whom he’d go on to discover hundreds of rock art galleries on Cape York and make him his life-long manager. On bark and canvas, Roughsey would paint traditional Lardil ceremonies featuring naÃ¯ve figures in full body paint designs and wearing corroboree outfits. His work was shown and sold at Macquarie Galleries in Sydney, the Australian Galleries in Melbourne and the Bonython Gallery in Adelaide. In 1970, Roughsey was appointed to the Aboriginal Arts Advisory Committee of the Australia Council “ eventually chairing the Council’s Aboriginal Arts Board and earning an OBE in 1978.
‘Stories of this Land’ is the first major retrospective celebrating the work and life of Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey (1920-1985). The exhibition brings together seventy works including barks, paintings, ceremonial and historical objects, draft illustrations from his children’s book and three storybook films. The show runs in Brisbane from 30 March to 18 August 2019. The exhibition will also be seen in Cairns.
Down the list from Roughsey, the NGV in Melbourne gets a guernsey at Number 7 with its first major show Downunder for the man who invented the mobile as art “ the American Alexander Calder. This maths prodigy who studied mechanical engineering at university before becoming a painter made his quantum leap after a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1931. Thereafter, he liberated primary colour from the canvas and shot it into the air via his mobiles. The show opens on 5th April.
Picasso in Beijing may have less appeal because the show’s devoted to only the first three decades of his life “ Blue, Rose and Cubist. Some might say that’s quite enough! And Yu Peng in Taipei may be limited by his geographical limitation to that island/country “ depending on your politics. And who on earth can predict the real value of a Biennial these days???
So, good for Goobalathaldin – a name meaning ‘weather standing on its end’ or ‘rough seas’!
The lists for Europe and the US are headed by Piero della Francesca in St Petersburg and the pencilled minimalism of Vija Celmine in San Francisco. The Americans are either sated by the likes of Tintoretto (at Number 7) or very eclectic.
Artist: Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey