Over East, we may feel that the isolationists of Western Australia are missing out on the Freedom that we’ve just been granted. But Here, as they like to think of it, is having a ball all on its own – until at least February. And nowhere more than at the Art Gallery of Western Australia which has been generously stimulated by WA government funds to become almost as much a party venue as a gallery. A $10m. transformation of its roof, for instance, will, I’m sure, become a popular place of entertainment for up to 500 people – though a 34 metre-long artwork there by Noongar man Christopher Pease will always be a reminder that Black and White relations in the West have not always been that harmonious.
Significantly, given the COVID border closure, The View From Here is a gallery-wide show of major new commissions and acquisitions exclusively by Western Australian artists. Central to this ambition is the Collective Ground exhibition, which includes 56 newly-acquired works by living Indigenous artists acquired through AGWA’s $1.5 million Covid-19 stimulus package. The AGWA’s rich holdings of Aboriginal art are given pride of place on the ground floor.
The exhibition captures the perspectives of a diverse group of at least 50 First Nations artists ranging from the state’s founding generation of Western Desert and Kimberley artists to emerging artists—many from urban arts backgrounds. The exhibition transforms every single AGWA gallery space into a celebration of Western Australian art, culture and creativity, including a major new sculpture commission from NATSIA Award-winning artist Ngarralja Tommy May from Fitzroy Crossing. The Wangkajunga/Walmajarri artist’s work takes the form of a golden rain cloud and hangs suspended from AGWA’s ceiling in aluminium and laser-cut brass. This positions May within the global contemporary art dialogues about climate and Indigenous systems of caring for Country.
Other names to conjure with include Donny Woolagoodja, George Hairbrush Tjungarrayi, John Prince Siddon (whose short stories often accompany a painting, laying out its subjects but never explaining everything), Julie Dowling, Katjara Butler, Myrtle Pennington, Nora Wompi, Peggy Griffiths, Rammey Ramsey, Revel Cooper and Shane Pickett.
The View From Here coincides with the launch of the Gallery’s new Rooftop, representing the completion of the original 1979 architectural vision for the Brutalist building. The AGWA Rooftop hosts one of the state’s most significant commissions from a Noongar artist, with Christopher Pease’s sprawling, 34-metre light-based artwork wrapping its exterior walls and overlooking the city skyline. Visitors will also find an open-air sculpture walk up there.
Non-Indigenous commissions have gone to the likes of Sarah Bahbah, the LA-based artist with over 1 million Instagram followers; Tim Meakins, whose giant 3D-printed sculptures of weightlifters, posers and grinning weights offer a playful interpretation of modern fitness culture; Bruno Booth’s ‘Adidas’-wearing cats appearing in unexpected places; joining recent works by Abdul Abdullah, Yok & Sheryo, Danielle Freakley, Tyrown Waigana and Tarryn Gill.
Colin Walker, the former bureaucrat, Director of WA’s Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, now AGWA Director, obviously knows his State well. On the 125th anniversary of the venerable AGWA last year, he commented: “Our birthday in 2020 mirrors our beginning. The WA Government is battling a miner to secure our border and protect lives over profit in a global pandemic. In our 125th year, we are taking the opportunity to reflect then redefine the Gallery’s role in the 21st Century. This work has already begun with a new five-year strategic plan that will be launched in the coming months”.
Looks like it’s Here – with a busy weekend of opening talks and events to mark the opening.
Artist: Christopher Pease, Ngarralja Tommy May, Donny Woolagoodja, George Hairbrush Tjungarrayi, John Prince Siddon,
Tags: AGWA , Art Gallery of Western Australia , christopher pease , Donny Woolagoodja , George Hairbrush Tjungarrayi , Jeremy Eccles , John Prince Siddon , julie dowling , Katjara Butler , myrtle pennington , ngarralja tommy may , nora wompi , peggy griffiths , rammey ramsey , Revel Cooper , Shane Pickett. Colin Walker ,
Gallery: Art Gallery of WA ,