Pivotal period captured in Aboriginal Australian art

A transformative period in Aboriginal Australian art is captured in the powerful exhibition, A Thousand Journeys: The Helen Read Collection, which has been launched at the Flinders University City Gallery.

The exhibition showcases more than 60 late 20th century paintings by some of Australia’s most celebrated Aboriginal artists from across the Kimberley and Top End, including important pieces by Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Kitty Kantilla, Eubena Nampitjin and David Malangi.

These works have been chosen from a larger collection assembled by Helen Read, a longstanding collector and advocate of Aboriginal art whose engagement with Aboriginal people and their communities in remote Australia spans more than 30 years.

Initially presented at the Tin Sheds Gallery at the University of Sydney in 1998, A Thousand Journeys: The Helen Read Collection has been revisited to provide fresh insights into contemporary Aboriginal art practice that made such a profound impact in the 1990s.

Lorna Fencer Napurrula, Yarla (yam), 1992, synthetic polymer paint on canvas board, 48.5 x 30 cm, Collection of Helen Read, (c) Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd 2017

With works arranged according to their geographic affiliation, this exhibition amplifies the diverse visual languages associated with particular Indigenous regions.

The minimalism of Warmun’s pioneering artists is seen in contrast to the high-key and painterly works from the desert communities of Balgo Hills, Lajamanu and Yuendumu.

Meticulously cross-hatched ochres on bark from Arnhem Land are juxtaposed beside luminous acrylics from Roper River seemingly stitched in minute figurative detail.

In bringing these works together, a pivotal period in Aboriginal Australian art history is captured.

A Thousand Journeys: The Helen Read Collection will be on show at the Flinders University City Gallery until 11 February 2018.

The exhibition is part of TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art, presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia in partnership with BHP and with support of the Government of South Australia.




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