New Survey Exhibition of Aboriginal Art Opens in Bucharest

A new Aboriginal art exhibition “The Dreaming” opened in Bucharest, Romania in October 2015, featuring paintings by over 50 Aboriginal artists and 240 paintings. Major artists exhibiting include Emily Kngwarreye, Tommy Watson, Clifford Possum, Dorothy Napangardi, Walangkura Napanangka, Judy Watson Napangardi, and Ronnie Tjampitjinpa. The artworks include regional styles across Australia, covering the Central and Western Deserts, Kimberley, Arnhem Land and Northern Queensland.

The exhibition was organised by Romanian business man Dan Cristea, who visited Australia many times and was captivated by the extraordinary stories presented by Aboriginal art. He saw parallels with the traditional art of Romania, which had been suppressed during the communist era, and was in need of rejuvenation. “There are symbols in our traditional arts that we have forgotten the meanings for.” Perhaps the vision of Aboriginal art opening the door between traditional culture and contemporary society could provide a model for Romania’s folkloric traditions.

The Aboriginal artworks have been organised under three categories – Genesis, Explosion and Universality. The section titled Genesis explores the origins of the Aboriginal art through culture and Law and the relationship with Land. Paintings related to rock art from Arnhem Land and the Kimberley open up into works from Papunya and Yuendumu. Pegleg Tjampitjinpa, George Ward Tjungurrayi, Long Jack Phillipus and Clifford Possum all have works represented there. Ochre paintings from the Kimberley and small works on bark are displayed together.

The section titled Explosion explores the rise of contemporary Aboriginal art from the Western Desert regions through to Queensland, including the communities of Utopia, Lajamanu and Lockhart River. Tommy Watson’s bold colours stand out, as do collaborative paintings from Wangkatjungka artists of the Kimberley. More minimalist paintings of Dorothy Napangardi and Anna Petyarre show the power of black and white structures that reflect the relationship with Country.

The section titled “Universality” draws comparisons with Romanian traditional arts, looking at use of colour and design as well as universal symbols. Several woven rugs and textiles, ceramics and wooden musical instruments from Romania are set alongside Aboriginal works to highlight similarities as well as differences.

Cultural presentations made by Dhinawan and Goompi were a major drawcard, featuring Didjeridoo and traditional dance. The Australian artists were flown by sponsor Qatar Airways to Bucharest. The exhibition is displayed on the 34th floor of the SkyTower building, with views stretching over Bucharest and nearby lakes. All artworks are for sale, and Dan Cristea from the Seeds Association, hopes that this will be the first step towards further sustained cultural projects in Romania. “The response to the Aboriginal art had been positive and we hope that good things will come from this exhibition.”