Prints by Aboriginal artists have not always been a total success. Unlike their Torres Strait cousins, the mainlanders don’t always manage the clarity and simplification that makes for a great etching, woodblock or silkscreen print.

But if any collaborator is going to bring the best out of an artist, it’s Basil Hall, who’s been developing his art for 25 years, the last 15 at the legendary Northern Editions and now Basil Hall Editions in Darwin.

In Canberra, the ANU’s Drill Hall Gallery is now giving him a second retrospective, curated by Djon Mundine, just a small sample of the enormous production that has taken place in Darwin printmaking studios over the last twelve years. In Hall’s own words, “what you see are examples of the inspired endeavours of more than 150 Indigenous artists and twenty

Some of the finest prints made in the period are included. These include major landmarks, such as the Yuendumu Doors, the 2003 Garma Panel, Ernabella’s Milpatjunanyi (sand stories), Yirrkala’s Berndt Collection etchings, the Injalak Suite and Hall’s latest suite by master-artists, Custodians: Country and Culture.

Mick Dodson has written an insightful forward to the exhibition catalogue: “What strikes me most about Etched in the Sun is the capacity of this collaborative medium to divulge aspects of Indigenous culture that are otherwise mainly inaccessible, from etchings of art on walls of rock in West Arnhem land transferred on location (The Injalak Suite), to Milpatjunanyi captured from the fingertips of Pitjantjatjara story tellers traced in the sand (Sand Stories), and to the delicate etchings created by pressing traditional medicinal plants through a soft ground (Replant Folio)”.

“As well as imparting elements of Indigenous cultural history, there are works of art that chronicle significant moments in Australia’s history. Judy Watson’s Under the Act is one such
piece, as is the politically clever and beautiful Yuendumu Doors. The Berndt Project etchings made by the descendants of the Yolngu people document a collection of the first Australian
Indigenous Australian artists from north-eastern Arnhem land to make drawings on paper.
They communicate the significance of a shared national history and its continuing connection with and influence on the ongoing relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians”.

Basil Hall gives a lecture at Drill Hall at noon on Friday 26 Sept.