David Wroth from Japingka Gallery shows us some of the highlights of the 2022 Barkly Artists exhibition.
Barkly Artists are a really interesting community arts organisation in their role covering a vast area of the Northern Territory. Included in this community exhibition at Japingka are the artworks from four different Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. The variation in styles and approaches is evident and makes for a fascinating collection of works.
In the archway of Gallery2, we have two wonderful paintings by Pammy Foster. These she calls Epenarra Landscape, reflecting her connection to that country. I'd describe this style of painting as naive in its construction- there are no horizons. We see the plant life, the bush medicine plants arranged across the full height of the canvas and in all their detail. There are flowering plants, all the different types of botanical plants you'd see in that Country.
This painting style is associated with the Alyawarr language group, and quite a few family clan groups paint in this style. It is tremendously evocative, attractive and quite compelling. It is a beautiful design structure in which the countryside is turned into a complete canvas-covering design that leads your eye around and through all the extraordinary colours. These two paintings contrast well, one set with a blue green tonality and the other set with a pink orange tonality. The two together are a gorgeous combination of views of traditional country.
One of the most in-demand artists from Barkly Artists is Ada Beasley. She has provided two landscape paintings of country for this exhibition. Ada's work is somewhere in between the naive style and an intensified realist style. Many of her paintings show the sandhill country in a lush abundance of growth. There are multiple green tones and hyper-detail on the grasses and flowers and trees. It makes the country look a fertile world that draws you in- reflecting the close relationship that the artist has with her country. Ada's two paintings were the first to sell in the exhibition. She is a remarkable painter of landscapes from Central Australia.
This painting by Magdalene Foster is an interesting contrast to Ada Beasley's style. This painting is set up in horizontal bands of colour with rows of vegetation and sandhills. As we look across the countryside, we are seeing from an aerial perspective. There is a sense that there is a horizon in this painting with a line of trees, although it could just be the next sandhill in the array of rolling hills. Each band is painted in a different colour scheme, with the whole layout integrated through use of colour. Plants are all identified in detail and you see the variation in the colour of the dotwork in the painting. It is fully resolved as a structured image. Once again it is as though the landscape is being turned into a design that features bush medicines and bush plants in a compelling way.
One of the other aspects of the work coming from Barkly Artists is an individual's look at everyday life. These are station activities, people out hunting, or life at various water holes in the country. This little painting by Heather Anderson is called Sunset Hills and Big Truck. You can see the cattle truck driving through the station country. The artist includes station fences, various animals, emus roaming around, eagles flying in the sky. She has added this unusually structured truck driving through a winding road in the middle of this station country. These artists are have a wonderful skill at representing everyday life. They paint the activities that they see around them, a visual diary of life. It is all part of the natural landscape, but it is also full of man-made artefacts, man-made symbols that make it into something quite different. It is an observation of the natural world and the role of human activity in that landscape.