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  • Articles by Sonali

    My Country – Hermannsburg and beyond

    This exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, consisting of four rooms of well-spaced works, explores the lasting legacy of painter Albert Namatjira (1902-1959). Namatjira was the first Indigenous Australian to receive commercial success in the mainstream art market, and recognition both at home and overseas. He established the Hermannsburg School of Watercolour Painting in Central Australia in the 1930s, influenced by European landscape painting techniques.

    Namatjira produced site specific pictures of his Country during his early career using watercolours. These painting represent the landscape of his ancestors, referring to the unique physical and spiritual connection Aboriginal people have to the earth.

    This connection to Country is highlighted here by Aboriginal artists who have chosen to follow in Namatjira’s example, but with a contemporary twist, and using a variety of mediums.

    The exhibition opens onto a room of bright and colourful landscape paintings of Southern and Western Australia. ‘The Gawler Ranges in autumn’ by Beaver Lennon reminds me of a high definition photograph in terms of its attention to minute detail. In the midst of this room is a display of terracotta vases by the Hermannsburg Potters (set up in 1990 by Western Arrernte people) decorated with landscapes scenes and native fauna of Central Australia.

    Claudia Moodoonuthi makes a wry urban reference to Country using 6 skateboards painted on both sides with dot iconography associated with the Lardil people. There’s a room with pink walls featuring a series of unbound (unframed) paintings made by displaced female Aboriginal artists often working in collaboration. These are covered in blotches or stripes of colour, experimenting with form and space, and a step forward from dot paintings perhaps.

    Reko Rennie is a Melbourne based ‘urban’ Aboriginal artist. His work combines the (diamond) iconography of Kamilaroi people with contemporary mediums such as graffiti art - ‘Regalia’, made from 3 neon lit symbols (including a crown), makes a simple but striking statement about the original sovereignty of Australia by Indigenous people.

    Indigenous Australian artists today express their connection to the land in new and different ways to reflect their changing environment. I was impressed by the variety of works on display here, most of these are vibrant, some are poignant.

    ends 10 April 2016

     1.'The Gawler Ranges in autumn' (2014-15) - Beaver Lennon

    2. Carol Panangka Rontji (2001) - Hermannsburg Potters

    3. Yulpu (2012) - Pinyirrpa Nancy Patterson

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