An outstanding range of national emerging and established artists are currently being showcased in this year’s biennial Indigenous art exhibition and auction at USQ.
Presented by the University’s Centre for Australian Indigenous Knowledges, the exhibition aims to promote Indigenous art and develop an appreciation and awareness of the rich and diverse cultures of Indigenous people in the country.
Curator, Beverley Bloxham, describes new works: OLD STORIES as a survey of contemporary artworks which tell the stories of the artists’ culture; dance, song, hunting and landscapes in highly individual and authentic voices.
Selecting the pieces to appear in the exhibition involved lengthy research by the curator into contemporary Indigenous artists and their works.
‘I was looking for authentic ‘voices’ telling the stories in highly original ways; for works that may not often be seen in our city, and works that may appeal to the serious collectors of Indigenous art as well as the first time buyers,’ Ms Bloxham said.
‘It was also important to me to have an educative element to the exhibition; I am hoping that students of all ages and our local creative community might find something to inspire them through the artworks, the way they were produced and the stories that accompany them.’
This year’s exhibition showcases artworks from some of the most remote areas in Australia; from Melville Island off the coast of Darwin to Kununurra in Western Australia, remote South Australia, Alice Springs and far north Queensland.
‘Artworks of this quality, from some of Australia’s senior and emerging artists from remote areas of Australia, are rarely seen in Toowoomba.
Apart from the opportunity to purchase some wonderful art, this exhibition can also be seen as an education in how our first people interpret the stories passed down to them through the generations in new materials and methods.
‘Timothy Cook’s etched stories of Kulama (the annual celebration of life in Tiwi tradition) are stories of country; how it was formed and how the spirit of country can still be seen in its landforms, aerial maps telling of the location of good water and bush tucker, sacred body painting patterns used during funeral rites and stories of dance and song which in turn tell the old stories of creation.
‘There are also stories of contemporary life; a life that continues tradition sometimes with modern conveniences as in Niningka Lewis’ screen-prints describing the search for Mingkulpa (native tobacco) now with the aid of a bush-bashing Toyota troop-carrier and Nura Ruperts’ joyful contemporary stories of every day life in her community of Pukatja (Ernabella) with playing children and camp dogs.
‘Originally, these stories might have been drawn in sand, carved in rock or wood, painted on bodies, bark or rock using natural pigments such as ochre and crushed seeds, accessed by very few people and many only by the initiates of the tribes.’
Beverley has a strong connection with Indigenous communities and an affinity for their art.
‘I have a deep connection with the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Islands (north of Darwin) through my sibling relationship with one of the elders on Bathurst Island.
‘We grew up together from the age of 17 to 22 whilst he was studying in Sydney and I have visited Bathurst Island on several occasions where I have been involved in ceremonies and honoured with a Tiwi name.
‘Also, in 2008, I was the ˜Queensland Artist-in-Residence’ at the Art at the Heart Regional Arts Australia Conference which entailed two visits to Alice Springs where I was fortunate to work alongside Indigenous artists from other states and to have lengthy discussions with Arrente elders including a gentleman who was the Director of one of the centres community arts centres.’
Most, but not all the artists are from art centres: the notable exception is Arone Meeks, a Kuku Midigi man, currently residing in Cairns.
Educated at the City Art Institute in Sydney, Meeks has forged an impressive national and international career in a practice which includes painting, sculpture, drawing and public art commissions as well as linoprints, etchings and monoprints.
This exhibition showcases a suite of Meeks’ monoprints and a linocut of heroic proportions, all of which retell his people’s stories, interwoven with his personal history.
Many of the featured artists have enviable exhibition histories and their works can be seen in some of the most important collections throughout the world.
For the first time this year, there is also a selection of cross cultural works from Better World Arts, a social enterprise company working with contemporary artists from the traditional Anangu Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in remote central Australia.
Their fine art images are sent to traditional artisans in Kashmir, Peru, India and Nepal where they are translated into covetable cushions, rugs, lacquer boxes and jewellery.
new works OLD STORIES runs from 18 to 29 August, culminating in an official closing and auction on Saturday 28 August at the USQ Arts Gallery.
Twenty-four key works will be auctioned, while the other prints and craft items will be available for purchase throughout the duration of the exhibition.
The on-line catalogue can be viewed at www.usq.edu.au/artsworx and further information can be obtained by contacting USQ Artsworx on 07 4631 1111.
Michelle Fox, USQ Artsworx, +61 7 4631 1114 or 0439 911 623
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