I’ve just been hanging the new work from Ngukurr Community in south-east Arnhem Land. What an amazing community of artists. There are nine different language and culture groups all living in the one place.
One of the my favourite works is a painting of the painted bones. This is about the whole ceremonial treatment of people after they’ve passed away. The bones have dried out in the landscape. They’re ceremonially painted with ochre and put into a special place. This acrylic painting contains lots of primary colours. In the background there is a fine crosshatch. This is another traditional style, the Rarrk technique from Arnhem Land. This is an unusual combination. It’s telling of a traditional story using a traditional process. Yet it’s then combined with a contemporary style.
This painting also refers to other paintings by the artist Djambu Barra Barra. He also recorded traditional cultural ceremonies and expressed them in paintings in this way. So his grandson is carrying on this tradition.
The exhibition includes another painting by Wally Wilfred about Ngukurr in the 1970s. It’s a naïve colorful painting with a lot of figures in it. You can see barges coming in and children swimming in the water. Everyone’s come down to the bank of the river and the trucks are there. It is about the supplies coming into the community. There’s great energy in the painting. This is a community that’s alive and vital. This is the artist’s memories of the community during his lifetime, a visual history.
It’s a joyful work. For all the things Aboriginal communities deal with, they do tend to maintain this view of the whole community. The interaction of the community is the most critical thing in their lives.
The exhibition also has some great works by Alan Joshua. He’s painted something that looks quite contemporary. It’s made entirely of lines with no figurative elements. It’s almost