Aboriginal art stimulates cross-cultural debate

Drift (detail), 2008, Lauren Berkowitz, herbs, grains and pulses. Image John Gollings © courtesy the artist
Drift (detail), 2008, Lauren Berkowitz, herbs, grains and pulses. Image John Gollings © courtesy the artist

Roads cross is the evocative title of a new exhibition at Flinders University’s Art Museum and City Gallery that examines how Aboriginal art has engaged with, and influenced, non-Indigenous artists in the late 20th century.

Director of the Art Museum and City Gallery and co-curator, Fiona Salmon, describes roads cross as “a snapshot of contemporary art that is at the intersection of Western and Indigenous traditions.”

“What we see in this exhibition is the extraordinary power of Aboriginal art to reach across cultures and to speak to other cultures,” Ms Salmon told Flinders Indaily.

“The project is a trigger for fresh discussion and debate around the idea of cross-cultural engagement and builds on a very strong history at Flinders University Art Museum of exploring this terrain,” she said.

“What we wanted to show with this exhibition – of 16 non-Indigenous and five Aboriginal artists – is the texture and diversity that you find at the intersection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture.

“We are not talking about a single aesthetic influence or a subject matter that is recurring in the work. What we are interested in are the different ways people have responded to Aboriginal art – whether its ideas that Aboriginal people have about ‘country’ and what does country mean or on an aesthetic level or on the way that Aboriginal artists use line and colour.

“A lot the works in this exhibition are pretty hard-hitting and that is another extremely important element in the way that non-Indigenous artists have engaged with Indigenous culture.”

Ms Salmon said non-Indigenous artists “do not move into the terrain” depicted in exhibition arbitrarily.

“People are moved by what they experience. If you have experienced Aboriginal culture first hand, if you have the opportunity to live and work alongside Aboriginal people in remote communities or otherwise, it is an extremely powerful and life-changing experience”, she said.

Roads cross is presented in partnership with Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery and is open to the public (Tuesday to Friday, 11am-4pm, Saturday to Sunday, noon – 4pm) until 26 August 2012.

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