[by Tanya Sticca]
Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley Opening Cultural Celebration
Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley is an exciting, experimental, and current look at Aboriginal art from the Kimberley, Western Australia. The show brings together over 150 new and old works that reveal the many faces and features of contemporary Aboriginal art from the region.
This landmark exhibition celebrates the conclusion of a six-year visual arts research and development project between the Art Gallery of WA and Aboriginal artists and art centres in the Kimberley.
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[supplied by Bangarra]
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At the heart of the exhibition is a group of eight commissions. Made by more than forty artists from six art centres and three independent artists, the commissions present as eight installations that are as diverse as much as they are alike. Each installation represents a different journey toward the same destination of individual and collective cultural expression. Experimental in both intent and form, the installations range from leather cow hides to video and animation, to paintings in sand, ochre and acrylic, to glass works, drawing and photography, as well as small and large-scale geometric designs on pearl shell and aluminium. These works capture the creativity, imagination and texture of Kimberley art and culture.
AGWA Board Chair, Janet Holmes à Court, said, “This is an exceptional event for Australia: new works from six Kimberley art centres and three independent artists will be presented alongside a selection of legacy works from art centre collections. Together with works from AGWA’s Collection, the exhibition will offer a rare experience of the land, artists and art of the Kimberley. We are delighted to link up with the Perth Festival which is the perfect context for this significant project.”
The commissions are presented beside works of art from the WA State Art Collection and private and art centre collections. Shown together, the works highlight some of the most significant works of art by revered Kimberley artists, past and present.
The Gallery has partnered with Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of WA (AACHWA) to deliver an internship where six Aboriginal Arts Workers will gain hands-on installation experience on the Desert River Sea exhibition.
The exhibition opens Saturday 9 February with a day of music, art demonstrations and talks. Many of the Kimberley artists will be at the Gallery, demonstrating their art practice and speaking about their works. This free cultural celebration runs from 10am-5pm.
The exhibition is co-curated by Carly Lane, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and Emilia Galatis, Community Liaison & Project Coordinator.
OPENING DAY CELEBRATION
10am-5pm, Saturday 9 February | FREE
The exhibition opens with a day of celebrating Kimberley art and culture with free artist talks, art demonstrations, cultural performances, and family activities. Darrell and Garry Sibosado will demonstrate the art of pearl shell carving. Eva and Ivy Nargoodah showcase bush-dying with natural materials, while Mowanjum Arts highlight ochre crushing and Wandjina rock art education. Mervyn Street of Mangkaja Arts will carve and shave a cowhide and Waringarri Aboriginal Arts will demonstrate boab nut carving. AGWA and art centre curators, along with artists will talk about their experiences across the day. Visitors can listen to live music by David Pigram and browse handmade items including carved pearl shells, dyed silks, textiles, and jewellery at the AGWA Shop. Families can explore Bibbulmun artist Esther McDowell/ Yabini Kickett's multi-media artwork that references the flora of Perth and connection to Country, and create their own response to it.
FULL PROGRAM HERE
Darrell and Garry Sibosado | Lombadina | Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent)
For Desert River Sea, the Sibosado brothers have produced a collaborative piece drawing inspiration from the Bard concept of Aalingoon (Rainbow Serpent). The resulting work is an intricate pearl shell sculpture measuring 1.8 metres in length, accompanied by largescale riji designs in aluminium.
Daniel Walbidi | Bidyadanga | Wirnpa
Wirnpa is an evocative sand installation and video work depicting a large‑scale representation of Wirnpa – a salt lake and creation being in Walbidi and his family’s ancestral Country.
Kira Kiro Art Centre | Kalumburu | Collaborative ochre on paper
Inspired by the rich tradition of rock art paintings and bush foods of the region, artists Betty Bundamurra and the late Mrs Taylor have created vivid and expressive works that share stories of Country and the role of Kira Kiros and other spirits as protectors and creators.
Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency | Fitzroy Crossing | Station Stories
The works from Mangkaja Arts focus on station stories from artists’ personal and collective memories. Diverse in medium, the collection features painted animal hides, bush-dyed textiles and repurposed ready-made objects.
Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre | Derby | Wodoi and Jun.gun
Inspired by the works and cultural knowledge of Paddy Neowarra, artists including Johnny Divilli, Dean Nulgit and Rona Charles, created a series of works incorporating photographs, maps of dance steps, drawings and video, that emphasise the importance of Junba – a cultural performance celebrated across the Kimberley.
Waringarri Aboriginal Arts | Kununurra | Wirnan
More than eighteen artists created a new work that unpacks a complex cultural narrative known as Wirnan. Working across three generations, artists convey the significance of this concept through a video work, ground installation and a series of objects traditionally used in Wirnan.
Warlayirti Artists | Balgo | Bush Tucker on Country
Warlayirti artists translated their painting skills into a series of glass works exploring the themes of desert bush foods and Country.
Warmun Art Centre | Warmun | We have many stories
Fifteen Warmun artists worked collaboratively to create a series of ochre paintings, six with accompanying animations. It is the first time the artists have used animation, working with animator Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman.
ART CENTRE COLLECTIONS
The community collections, or legacy works, are curated by local Kimberley curators – Dora Griffiths (Waringarri Aboriginal Arts), Lynley Nargoodah (Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency), Maitland Ngerdu (Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre), April Nulgit and Marika Riley (Warmun Art Centre), Garry Sibosado (Independent, Lombadina) and Stanley Taylor (Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre).
The selected works include carved objects, works on paper, dance poles and paintings that echo the genesis of each artistic region. Artists include Janangoo Butcher Cherel, Mary Punchi Clement, Rammey Ramsay, Lucy Yukenbarri, George Mung Mung, Mignonette Jamin, Jack Wherra, Janet Williams, Mr. Griffiths and Pompey Siddon. These works act as an insight into the community and are a starting point for investigating the themes and innovations incorporated into the new commissions.
WA STATE ART COLLECTION
More than 60 Kimberley works from AGWA's renowned Indigenous collection also feature in the exhibition. Highlights include works by Jimmy Pike, Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Willy Billabong, Ngarralja Tommy May, Weaver Jack and Mrs Snell.
THE DESERT RIVER SEA PROJECT
Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley is the third and final phase of a six-year visual arts project called Desert River Sea: Kimberley Art Then & Now. With support from Rio Tinto, the Art Gallery of WA and the Aboriginal artists and art centres joined together in developing a new model of engagement that brought the Gallery and region closer together and enabled self-determination. The project involved documenting cultural practices, developing a comprehensive web portal and a Visual Arts Leadership Program.
On Sacred Ground Screening & Talk
5.30pm, Sunday 24 February | FREE
(Perth Cultural Centre Screen and Northbridge Screen)
Attend a special screening of the 1980 documentary On Sacred Ground with a keynote introduction by the film's original narrator Ribnga Green Snr. Politically censored by the Federal government for several years after its production, the film explores the importance of Country to Aboriginal people and investigates the well-publicised Aboriginal struggle to stop mining at Noonkanbah Station, an Aboriginal owned cattle station in the Kimberley, during the late 1970s. On Sacred Ground captures a particular moment in time for the Kimberley, however, echoes contemporary political negotiations.
On Sacred Ground is also screening at AGWA from 9 Feb – 20 May 2019, as part of theDesert River Sea exhibition.
DESERT RIVER SEA PUBLICATION | $49.99
Published in partnership with UWA Press, a 240 page publication complements the exhibition and documents the Desert River Sea visual arts project and the artists and art centres of the Kimberley region.
Artists will be available to sign the publication between 10-10.30am on Saturday 9 February.
Devised by WA Aboriginal Art Centre peak body the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of WA (AACHWA), this new internship program gives six Aboriginal Arts Workers who are currently working at Art Centres in remote areas of WA the chance to experience the installation of a significant exhibition at the state gallery. This is a significant professional opportunity for the WA Aboriginal Arts sector and reflective of the longer-term strategies underpinning the Desert River Sea project. The program will run over two weeks from the 28 January 2019 and involve time at AGWA, training with Art on the Move and exposure to the wider Art and Museum sector in Perth.
Artistic Director, Perth Festival – Wendy Martin
“Perth Festival is committed to showcasing the incredible part of the world we live in and the stories that make us unique. Desert River Sea is an extraordinary and far-ranging expression of the adventurous Indigenous art-making of the Kimberley. It stands as a major highlight of the 2019 Festival program alongside our opening weekend celebration of Noongar culture Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak.”
Chief Executive, Rio Tinto Iron Ore – Chris Salisbury
“Rio Tinto respects and admires the connection Aboriginal people have to their land and recognises the importance of showcasing their culture through art. That’s why we support programmes that enhance the vibrancy and diversity of our rich cultural landscape.
“I’m proud that through Desert River Sea, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, with the support of Rio Tinto, has produced some great outcomes over the years. It has served to strengthen the Kimberley visual arts network, documented current Kimberley arts practice, supported emerging arts professionals and artists, and raised awareness about Indigenous culture.”
AGWA Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Carly Lane
"Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley is the exciting culmination of the landmark Desert River Sea project. The six-year project saw a new model of collaboration between the Art Gallery of WA and the arts centres and artists of the Kimberley region. Founded on continual exchange and collaboration between AGWA and the artists, the project and exhibition were ultimately shaped by the people and the places of the Kimberley," says Carly Lane, AGWA Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.
"The exhibition reflects the recognition of cultural ownership and self-determination. Each of the artists and art centres has embraced the opportunity to share their stories of Country and lived experience, often through the expansion of their art-making practices. The result is an exciting, experimental and current look at contemporary Aboriginal art in the Kimberley."
KEY EXHIBITION INFORMATION
Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley
THE EXHIBITION EXPERIENCE
Art Gallery of WA
9 February – 27 May 2019 | FREE
Opening cultural celebration Saturday 9 February 2019 with artist talks, workshops, performances and more.