Vivien Johnson in front of an amazingly early Long Jack Phillipus painting on canvas at the UNSW Galleries
Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 04.09.15
So much news to share with you, I'm having to collate it all into a single story:
1. The Istanbul Biennial is about to hit the headlines as Sydney's last Biennale did – with action by the artists involved in support of the Kurds challenging Turkey's troubled political scene. How they'll co-ordinate it in Istanbul is a mystery, since curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has resisted telling anyone which artists she's invited. However, it is confirmed that at least two Australian Aboriginal artists will be there – Djambawa Marawili, ANKAAA Chair and cultural leader from Buku Larrnggay in Eastern Arnhemland and Vernon Ah Kee from Brisbane. Will they join the protest??
2. Also on the move internationally – to the UK – are this year's five British Council 'Accelerate' selections. They're hot young Indigenous artists who'll benefit from mentorship in Britain. And the lucky ones are Marcus Corowa – muso, Deadly winner and the talent behind the musical, 'The New Black' which will hopefully be coming your way some day soon; Emma Loban – Gab Titui Exhibitions Manager from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, who is also an advocate for the return of Indigenous remains scattered around the world's museums; Angela Flynn – Adelaide art manager, currently I/c the Tarnanthi Art Fair at Tandanya, where she's Performing Arts Manager; Teegan Cowlishaw – WA visual artist and sustainable fashion designer; and Carly Sheppard – dancer, choreographer and emerging performance artist from Melbourne. Good luck to them.
3. Barangaroo finally opens this weekend in Sydney. Not only has it taken the name of Bennelong's smarter wife – claimed to be the first businesswoman in Sydney as she sold fish the women had caught to invaders who were running out of supplies as the Second Fleet failed to arrive – but the first month's opening celebrations are dedicated to the Harbourside area's Indigenous history. Food, music, smoking and dance, and art – notably Brook Andrew's inflatable Wiradjuri balloons floating in the vast spaces of the Cutaway – will all attempt to reflect this pre-urban past.
4. In Queen Street Woollahra on Sunday (at 2pm), Bonhams will auction the second tranche of the legendary Vroom Collection from Holland. Part one went at Sotheby's in London – finding well-heeled homes for old barks, but few canvases. It'll be interesting to see whether the local scene is equally turned on by another selection of Lance Bennett's 1960's bark collection – technically challenged but historically significant. I fear the many of the Emily Kngwarrey canvases will suffer the same fate as those in London. But there are Tiwi carvings and Yirrkala barks to die for. Could entrepreneur Tim Klingender – the man who 'invented' the market for early Papunya boards – be right in moving on to historic barks?
5. Also opening this weekend at what I still call COFA (the UNSW Art galleries in Paddington) is a labour of love – Vivien Johnson's 'Streets of Papunya' show. Springing from her magisterial book, 'Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists', she remained faithful to Papunya the community even after the Pintupi artists moved out west to their homelands. When the art died in their old home, she helped to establish the Papunya Tjupi art centre, allowing descendants of the Warangkulas, the Phillipuses, the Lungkatas and the Puntungkas -all of whom have streets named after them - to recover their painting mojo. Some exciting names are emerging - Candy Nelson Nakamarra and Dennis Nelson Tjakamarra, and Isobel Gorey spring to mind. All are on show in Paddo, grouped with their illustrious antecedents. A book from New South Publishing will follow, capturing the fruits of Johnson's heroic pursuit of the foundation history of Aboriginal art in Australia. It will tour nationally (apart from the NT!) after Sydney.
6. Meanwhile, in Melbourne it's that time of year when everything has to be linked to footy – the Victorian brand of it. Fortunately, it's the brand loved best in the desert too (where, under the name Marn Grook, they may actually have invented it!). So getting the Hermannsberg Potters to make a suite of footy pots – managing to incorporate the politics of booing Black players as well as the physical glories of Rules – was easy. The National Gallery of Victoria at Fed Square has a show aimed at the kid in all of us from 19 September.
7. Extraordinarily, the first ever portrait of an Indigenous West Australian to find its way into the National Portrait Gallery was unveiled this week. Not a Kimberley artist, not a Noongah writer, not a footy player, nor a Noonkanbah protester have made the grade before. But Richard Walley, dancer, muso and former Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of Ozco breaks the WA duck. Perhaps it helped that well-known Indigenous portraitist, Julie Dowling did the work?
Brook Andrew showing off two of his Wiradjuri-design ballons in Barangaroo's newly-opened Cutaway void
Djambawa Marawili being political at the World Indigenous Conference in 2013