ACTease May 2014
What is the most obscure name you have ever seen for an art exhibition? Like choosing a title for a book or film, deciding on a title for an exhibition is an important part of the creative process. It’s a fine balance of conveying what the exhibition is about, whilst creating an element of mystery and intrigue to capture your audience’s attention so they want to learn more.
Pat Hoffie’s exhibition title, people do have the right to be bigots you know was actually coined from a recent statement by Attorney General, George Brandis. This controversial statement instantly grabbed my attention. It also seems fitting for this exhibition, in which Hoffie has taken bumper stickers sold to Australian tourists in Bali and transferred their messages onto kitsch “traditional” carvings (also for the tourist trade). As expected, this exhibition has a humorous side and pokes fun at Australian tourists. However, the funny side of this show is also balanced out with a “sharp, sobering edge. It offers a startling insight into the way Balinese people see us. And it isn’t necessarily pretty”. This collection of work was first shown as you gotta love it at Artspace in Sydney in February 2013. However, people do have the right to be bigots you know has been updated by Hoffie “to include revealing quotes from Australian politicians that shed light on current relations with Indonesia”.
Mariana del Castillo’s latest exhibition, Scars of a ritual past is a “monumental clash of cultures” as she explores the contrast of two countries close to her heart – Australia and her native Ecuador. “There is a depth of displacement that children of migrants carry, and religious standings and convictions can often stand in opposition to the new secular society,” says del Castillo. Visitors will enjoy del Castillo’s dreamlike installation as she masterfully “captures the overwhelming experience of adapting past to present”.
Samantha Small plays with viewer’s minds in her latest exhibition, sour castles. Viewers are teased by a corridor with multiple doors that offers false access into different worlds (the doors are locked and access denied). The corridor has also been designed to close in around the viewer, “generating a claustrophobic experience that is uncomfortable but totally fascinating”. The title of the work, sour castles, has been taken from Marcel Broodthaers’ untitled poem “bitter castle of eagles” or in French, “aigre château des aigles”. “Through this evocative verse she offers one small way of escaping into a world that might lie beyond the doors, or a view of sorts. This the viewer must find.”
All exhibitions run until 10 May at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gorman House Arts Centre.
Drawing is a broad and varied practice, which is demonstrated and celebrated in ANU Drill Hall Gallery’s exhibition, Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 Years of the Dobell Prize for Drawing. The Dobell Prize was established and continues to be funded from the estate of graphic artist, Sir William Dobell (1899-1970). It was the 20th anniversary of the prize in 2012, which was marked with a touring exhibition including work from previous prize winners and participants. This month, it’s the Drill Hall Gallery’s turn to host this beautiful collection of works until 18 May 2014. This exhibition is an Art Gallery of New South Wales exhibition curated by Anne Ryan and toured by Museums & Galleries NSW.
Old Masters at the National Museum of Australia is a breathtaking exhibition featuring a spectacular collection of work from Australia’s ‘Old Masters’ – Aboriginal painters from Arnhem Land. This unique exhibition is special for several reasons: firstly, it includes 122 works from the National Museum’s bark painting collection (the largest in the world, with over 2000 pieces) and secondly it celebrates the genius and art of 40 master bark painters such as Narritjin Maymuru, Yirawala and Mawalan Marika.
Works included in the exhibition were created from 1948 to 1988. This time period is significant due to the cultural and historical changes that took part in the region during this time, such as the Second World War and the bombing of Darwin, as well as the exposure the artists received following the war. Anthropologists and collectors introduced the works of these artists to new audiences in Australia and internationally.
The rich, earthy tones of the works included in the exhibition are beautifully set-off against a simple white, black and gold backdrop. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the tools and materials the artists would have used to create these works, such as brushes made from a few strands of human hair, which are then attached to a short handle and used for crosshatching work. Narritjin Maymuru’s brush (or ‘marwat’ as he calls it) is also on display in the exhibition. Narritjin once explained that the hair used for the brush is taken from a young clan member’s forehead and each hair represents and idea or a thought.
“This exhibition challenges our notions of what Aboriginal barks are by presenting exquisite artistry, diverse palettes and innovative designs that are not popularly associated with barks…Most of the works have not been displayed in Australia before,” says said National Museum consultant curator, Wally Caruana. This exhibition is a beautiful tribute to Australian Indigenous history and culture.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have managed Australia’s land, rivers and oceans for countless generations. Also at the National Museum of Australia, On Country: Connect, Work, Celebrate is an exhibition that explores the traditional methods these communities continue to use, as well as the contemporary techniques that have been applied as technology has advanced. The exhibition consists of approximately ninety photographs of over thirty-three communities that are managing feral animals, weeds, pollution, bushfire prevention and cultural and heritage sites. Many of the images included in the exhibition are photographs that were shortlisted from the 2010 and 2012 biennial photographic competitions run as part of the Australian government’s Indigenous Rangers program. “These beautiful photographs depict the unrivalled connection Indigenous people have to their Country and to the land generally – and how their unique cultural knowledge is applied to address contemporary environmental issues,” says National Museum curator, Barbara Paulson.
I was particularly impressed by the diversity of images captured from a variety of regions throughout Australia. “Indigenous people are custodians of their lands for future generations and the photographs reveal how empowering this is for Indigenous communities,” says Paul House, Ngambri custodian from the Canberra region. Old Masters and On Country both run until 20 July 2014 at the National Museum of Australia.
A collection of works including contemporary paintings, photographs and objects have been brought together in National Library of Australia exhibition, Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection. Works have been drawn from the Westfarmers Collection and include a variety of pieces from renowned Australian and New Zealand artists including Brook Andrew, Paddy Bedford, Timothy Cook, Rosalie Gascoigne, Bill Henson, Rosemary Laing, Susan Norrie, Michael Riley, and Howard Taylor. Each of these artists explore the concept of light in different ways, including “the connection between the movements of the stars and the cycles of life on earth; and the diversity of cultural, mythic and spiritual ideas with which light has come to be associated”. Runs until 29 June at the National Library of Australia.
Courtney Symes is a Canberra-based writer, small business owner, and mother. When she’s not writing, you will find her enjoying a run around one of Canberra’s beautiful parks and seeking out Canberra’s best coffee and cheesecake haunts with the family. Read more at alittlepinkbook.blogspot.com.au