VIVIEN ANDERSON GALLERY| HOME DELIVERY - A Billboard down South and an Art Fair up NorthAugust 2020
All dressed up - including our now ubiquitous face masks - and nowhere to go.....
This is normally the busiest time of year in the Indigenous art calendar. A veritable smorgasbord of art awards and art fairs across the top half of Australia offer a feast of Indigenous art (and an excuse to escape the Melbourne winter for sunnier climes!) and an important opportunity to catch up with artists, clients, and curators against an ever moving backdrop of art... This week we would normally be packing our bags and heading to Darwin for the annual Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, now in its 37th year, the Salon des Refuses at Charles Darwin University, and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and other associated events. Instead, this year, as we shelter in our homes, we are thrilled that they are bringing the Awards and the Art Fair to us!
The Telstra NATSIAAs will be announced on 7 August and can be viewed live. We congratulate all finalists, and especially our gallery represented artists Kent Morris, Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Angkaliya Curtis, Ginger Wikilyiri and Keith Stevens. The Salon des Refuses is open from 5 August at Charles Darwin University and can be viewed online.
The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) features work from 69 Indigenous owned art centres, and this year is an entirely virtual event. To access the Art Fair (open from Thursday 6 - Friday 14 August) and other events visit the DAAF website.
In mid August, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair - The Cultural Evolution - takes centre stage. This year it too is a virtual event, with live streamed presentations, performances, workshops and virtual gallery exhibitions from Friday 14 to Sunday 23 August and can be accessed at the CIAF website.
These events coincide with a new campaign from the Indigenous Art Code: "Our Art Is Our Lifeline", to encourage people to buy Indigenous art and to inform them about the most ethical means of doing so. Tune in to ABC Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly at 8.45am tomorrow to hear Stephanie Parkin and artist Saretta Fielding being interviewed about the campaign. A social media campaign is also starting today and outdoor advertising is up at locations in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
With all these events, there is no better time to show your support for Indigenous art and artists.
Meanwhile, back in Melbourne, one of the most exciting emerging bark artists Dhambit #2 Wanambi is on the walls at Vivien Anderson Gallery. With the new restrictions our doors will be closed to the public from Thursday 6 August, but this extraordinary exhibition can be toured online - view our current exhibitions page.
And amongst all these new restrictions, gallery artist Kent Morris brings some much needed joy, and keeps us feeling connected wherever we may be, with his new digital work "Never Alone" as part of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) initiative – Who’s Afraid of Public Space?
For those within a 5km radius, the digital billboard is at the intersection of Fitzroy Street, Canterbury Road and Grey Street, St Kilda.
Developed during this period of isolation, Kent focuses on the First Nations cultural concept of the interconnectedness of all things - people, plants, animals, landforms and celestial bodies.
He states: During the COVID-19 period, there has been a reframing of how we collectively perceive time. We have a remembered past, an anxious present and an uncertain future. Never Alone encourages a reflective response to our current state of existence and suggests the incorporation of Indigenous philosophies, knowledges and relationships to navigate a connected pathway forward.
To view available works by Kent Morris, visit the artist page on our website or contact the gallery.
Stay safe out there.
Image: Kent Morris, Never Alone billboard St Kilda, Photograph courtesy of the artist / ACCA
VIVIEN ANDERSON GALLERY| HOME DELIVERY - A message from LajamanuJuly 2020
Well, it just got weird again. And a little bit harder. Next time we see you it will be face masks at 1.5 metres… and that’s when we get to see our friends in Melbourne!
For those of you elsewhere, it’s looking to be a long time...
But with all these additional restrictions in place, and all the increased frustrations and challenges they bring, I was reminded of the importance of our actions recently, and that we’re not just doing this for us.
Last week I received the following message from Louisa Erglis, the art centre coordinator at Warnayaka Art in Lajamanu, some 3100km away from Melbourne on the edge of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory. Things were a little different in Melbourne even then. But as I read her words again it is a potent reminder of how quickly things can change, and that the actions we take now are also to keep our friends and artists in remote communities thousands of kilometres away safe too. And they are thinking of us.
Here we were in lockdown which was lifted, so many people have left their bubble of Lajamanu - the bubble burst. ha ha.
In all fairness all the funerals were stopped because of COVID, so now people are going from funeral to funeral. We had at least a person die each week from 31st Dec to mid Feb from general health problems. So now people are having a funeral for 2 people etc etc and at least one a week. Also all business that involved travel stopped, so now people are coming into Lajamanu for meetings, and Warlpiri are flying out all the time for medical appointments that were delayed because of COVID. So the town has everyone going away and coming back, and visitors arriving for funerals and leaving again.
But really all is very well.
I'm very grateful that NSW, Victoria and WA have managed to control the virus - at great expense to them. It has meant the NT has nearly no cases. It would be terrible if it gets into any NT or WA community as underlying health issues are present and very serious in most of the Indigenous population no matter the age. Over 10% of Warlpiri residents of Lajamanu (population about 700) are extremely ill. The level of seriousness is nearly no kidney function left, coupled with heart and liver damage and diabetes (in a single patient).
So you can't underestimate the relief most people felt when the figures for the infection dropped in late March. We are now wondering how stressed we should be with Melbourne's infection rates rising. I'm hoping things go ok. If anyone is upset about lock down, assure them that people in remote communities are so grateful for what they have been through, and what it means out here. I was worried about seeing 200 people in Lajamanu pass away suddenly from the virus.
We have a cold bug going around town. We've mainly had no close contact or only with a few people, but nearly everyone here has caught it. It would have been the same with COVID.
For now we are lucky to surround ourselves with the inspiring and joyful paintings of the extraordinary artists we represent.
Stay safe out there.
Image: Rosie Tasman Napurrula, Ngurlu Jukurrpa (Seed Dreaming) 2013, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, Provenance: Warnayaka Artists, Lajamanu NT
VIVIEN ANDERSON GALLERY| HOME DELIVERY - Djambawa Marawili AMJune 2020
This week we feature renowned Yolngu artist Djambawa Marawili AM
Tell me about the artist
Djambawa Marawili AM is an artist and advocate of such stature it is almost impossible to know where to start with an introduction... and so perhaps it is best to begin at the beginning.
"The land has everything it needs. But it couldn’t speak. It couldn’t express itself. Tell its identity. And so it grew a tongue. That is the Yolngu. That is me. We are the tongue of the land. Grown by the land so it can sing who it is. We exist so we can paint the land. That’s our job. Paint and sing and dance. So it can feel good to express its true identity. Without us it cannot talk. But it is still there. Only silent."
(Djambawa Marawili AM on the exhibition where the water moves, where it rests at the Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection 2015)
Born in 1953, Djambawa Marawili AM is a pivotal historic, political and artistic force in Australia today. Djambawa leaves his mark in so many ways: in the politics of land rights, health, reconciliation, art and culture, and as a highly influential and continuously innovative artist. Indeed, he is first and foremost a leader, with his art practice but one of the tools he uses to lead.
Djambawa Marawili has been involved in key Indigenous rights campaigns, including producing the 1988 Barunga statement, the 1992 royal commission into deaths in custody, and he coordinated the Blue Mud Bay land rights case which resulted in a High Court ruling that Indigenous people own the land between the low and high water marks. In 2010 he was named a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the arts, homelands and sea rights.
It is all these elements - his passion for people and place, his role as an artist, activist and leader for the Madarrpa clan and caretaker of other related clans of the Yolgnu people of north east Arnhem Land, and his continued and masterly storytelling - that are celebrated in the barks and larrakitj (hollow logs) he produces. Adorned with the patterns and designs of his homeland, at Yilpara in Blue Mud Bay, Eastern Arnhem Land, Djambawa’s paintings on bark and larrakitj (hollow logs) communicate a deep cultural knowledge that comes from Wangarr (the beginning), or the time before the first morning.
When did you first become aware of Djambawa Marawili’s practice?
Although not the first time we encountered his artworks, we recall Djambawa’s extraordinary sculpted bark paintings in Zones of Contact at the Sydney Biennale in 2006, where fibrous material was used to build up figurative reliefs on the surface of the works, and his installation at the Asia Pacific Triennial 5 at GOMA, Brisbane, in the same year. Both exhibitions assured us of his artistic pedigree.
In 2008, Vivien Anderson Gallery exhibited Djambawa’s work for the first time, when we presented an extraordinarily painterly installation of his larrakitj (hollow logs) at the Melbourne Art Fair. Shortly after, in 2009, Djambawa travelled to the 3rd Moscow Biennale in Russia and sang open his installation of bark paintings. However it was not until June 2012 that we had the pleasure of meeting Djambawa Marawili, when he travelled to Santa Fe, alongside a number of represented artists, to attend the opening of Australian Contemporary Indigenous Art II, presented by Vivien Anderson Gallery in conjunction with Chiaroscuro Gallery.
Indefatigable, Djambawa disembarked at Santa Fe eager to embrace and engage with all the people of Santa Fe, but particularly the Native American artists represented by the Chiaroscuro Gallery, and leaders of the Tewa community, the traditional owners of Santa Fe.
Over the course of seven days Djambawa familiarised himself with the town, its people, the galleries, the media and artists, he left a lasting impression on the community of the Taos Pueblo, visiting twice over the course of the week, once to meet the resident artisans and again to witness and participate in the dancing at the annual South Western Pow Wow, one of the largest gatherings of native Americans in the USA held annually. His presence alone - walking, resting or dining - in Santa Fe would attract significant intrigue.
Since then we have been fortunate to host Djambawa in Melbourne for the opening of exhibitions including his 2013 solo exhibition Djambawa Marawili AM – Master of Ceremony, and to see him in many places and guises across Australia, where he always generously engages with his audience, inspiring and educating those present of Yolngu culture and its enduring importance to how we see ourselves as a nation. Indeed, Djambawa is one of the most perspicacious and distinguished men you will likely meet.
Why is Djambawa Marawili important?
Djambawa Marawili AM is unquestionably a master artist, a spirited and generous innovator in a medium that responds to his deepest desire to maintain his culture whilst communicating with the larger world beyond his homeland. It is his commitment to his practice, and the continued renewal of his painting that saw him announced winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award last year for his towering bark painting which tells the story of a more recent trip to the US promoting Yolngu philosophy, reaching out from his homelands to the Statue of Liberty in New York who is depicted in the patterns and designs of Blue Mud Bay. It came some 23 years after his 1996 win for the Best Bark Painting at the Telstra Award. His works are held in every major institution throughout Australia, and in many international collections. His artistic legacy can also be seen in the continuum of innovative younger artists at his art centre Buku Larrnggay Mulka in Yirrkala.
Djambawa Marawili also continues with his advocacy and educational roles, and is the current Chair of the Arnhem, Northern and Kimberly Artists Aboriginal Corporation (ANKA), a role which finds him articulating the immense cultural and historical importance of artists and Art Centre-based community collections. In this role he is the voice of the ANKA crowdfunding campaign SAFE CULTURE, STRONG FUTURES which supports purchase of art and cultural objects to stay safe on Country for future generations. Djambawa describes how these safe keeping places on Country are so important to protect and keep culture strong - an imperative all the more vital given the drastic impacts of COVID-19 on the remote Indigenous arts sector. You can view Djambawa’s message here and donate here.
It has been, and continues to be, an honour to work with Djambawa Marawili AM. He should be recognised as one of this nation’s most gracious, generous and masterful living artists in addition to his long and productive career in governance and diplomacy.
For further information about the artist, or to view additional available works visit the artist’s page on our website or contact the gallery.
Image (l-r): Dhakandjali 2013, earth pigment on hollow log, 182.0 cm (height); Baraltja 2012, earth pigment on bark, 189.0 x 82.0 cm; Metamorphosis/Djunungayangu 2007, earth pigment on hollow log, 261.0 cm (height)
VIVIEN ANDERSON GALLERY| HOME DELIVERY - Keith StevensJune 2020
This week we continue our Home Delivery service with a feature on Keith Stevens.
Tell me about the artist
Keith Stevens is a Pitjantjatjara artist born in the far north of South Australia at Granite Downs cattle station where his parents were working in the 1940s. Following in his parents’ footsteps he was mustering at an early age and had no schooling until moving to Pukatja (Ernabella) as a young boy where he attended the mission school. Keith's family would travel for weekends to their traditional homelands of Piltati and Iwarrawarra, eventually moving to Piltati creek at what is now Nyapari Community, where Keith currently resides.
Nyapari is located in the tri-state border area where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands). The community lies about 20 km south of the Northern Territory border, and approximately 500 km south west of Alice Springs, the nearest major town. The population of Nyapari ranges between 50 and 100 mainly Pitjantjatjara people, and Itjantjatjara is the main language spoken at home and around the community. It is home to the celebrated Tjungu Palya Art Centre which services the artists of Nyapari and the nearby communities of Kanpi and Watarru.
Keith is a respected senior man in traditional law and a strong community leader, both a respected lore man and a Christian Pastor.
When did you first become aware of Keith Stevens’s practice?
Vivien Anderson Gallery has represented the artists of Tjungu Palya since the art centre was founded in the early 2000s, one of the first to emerge in the APY Lands.
We were first aware of Keith not as an artist, but as the son of the late great Kunmanara (Eileen Yaritja) Stevens, who held her first solo exhibition at Vivien Anderson Gallery in 2007 at the ripe old age of about 93. Keith had arranged photography for the exhibition catalogue of the rockhole Piltati, for which he is now custodian, and appeared in those images.
Meanwhile his mother, the fearless Kunmanara (Eileen Yaritja) Stevens, resplendent in her eye patch and travelling by mobility scooter, came to Melbourne for the opening of her exhibition. Lunch that day, with guests including Judith Ryan (senior curator at the NGV), Dr Christine Nicholls (writer, curator and lecturer) and Vivien Anderson saw a collective knowledge and experience working in Indigenous art that at the time did not quite amount to Eileen’s great age.
At that stage Keith had only just begun to paint, his works formative and precise, unlike Kunmanara’s wildly gestural works. Keith shared with his mother a high key palette, yet unlike Kunmanara’s contrasting complementary colour combinations, his paintings shimmered with tonal shifts of often hot reds and pinks.
Why is Keith Stevens important?
Keith Stevens’s artistic lineage is enough for one to take notice – not only was his mother Kunmanara (Eileen Yaritja) Stevens a much celebrated artist, but his uncles Kunmanara (Tiger) Palpatja and Ginger Wikilyiri are renowned for their depictions of Piltati, the location of the major ancestral narrative for Nyapari, the Wanampi Tjukurpa (Water Snake Ancestral Men Dreaming). Ironically, this also goes some way to explaining how Keith has flown under the radar for so long.
Yet this relative concealment has given Keith the opportunity to develop a unique style, a complex method of painting where the negative space is used to articulate a linear narrative. Not many artists paint in this manner, the process is literally like digging through the layers of the subterranean to reveal the epic supernatural activities taking place in that multiverse.
While this refined precision remains in the compositions, over the last few years Keith his shifted from painting with showy colours, so hot one could almost feel the heat radiating from the canvas, to a more muted tonal range, almost like the dormant campfire that remains.
His decision to change his key palette so dramatically illustrates not only his remarkable understanding of colour, but his shift to a mature artist, and marks the unveiling of a masterful painter.
Keith Stevens held his first solo exhibition with Vivien Anderson Gallery in early 2020. For further information about the artist, or to view additional available works visit the artist’s page on our website or contact the gallery.
Image: Keith Stevens, Piltati 2019, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 198 x 198 cm