Past Exhibitions


LAST Exhibition

Aboriginal women painters
from Boundary Bore

The paintings are small, the largest one being 91 x 61 cm. As is so often the case with aboriginal paintings they have mostly been painted on a black ground. Over this black ground the tiny precise spots of white, red and ochre are used to build up and define the surface and express the subject. The subject matter of the paintings is flatly stated as being -Grasses, Bush Medicine and Mountain Devil Lizard. These are perhaps too cryptic to convey anything other than an elusive hint to the uninitiated or non-aboriginal viewer. The compositions are common to the four artists in the exhibition and are defined by geometric divisions of the canvas. A line drawn diagonally from each corner, whether the painting be horizontal or vertical, forming a cross is a fairly typical example of a common figuration.

The surface is a fairly regular even one with an 'allover' emphasis whereby the shapes and forms that are represented emerge out of the profusion of tiny little dots. The geometric basis of the division of the canvas surface into shapes and areas is the strongest element to emerge from this background. There are vague leaf shapes or organic plant shapes that quite discernible but these paintings are in reality an internal journey or understanding.

None of the above elements are anything new or extraordinary. They are all well-established uncomplicated pictorial elements, which do not become an end in themselves. These simple elements are used with precision understanding and great sensitivity to control the effects in a subtle and shimmering way.

The paintings have the sophistication of simplicity. The means are simple and ordinary but their use is skilful and sophisticated. The simple technical means are used so as not to distract the viewer from the essential message or content of the painting. Profound, complex and layered ideas can be expressed powerfully and simply in a visual mode of expression. To a degree these paintings are an attempt to avoid the limitations of language.

The intensity and transparent certainty of the paintings is a reflection of the belief system that is at their core. The paintings might refer to elements of landscape and natural phenomena but these elements like the pictorial elements are only vehicle to express the deeper meanings of the work. The works are remarkably homogeneous in approach subject matter and intention. The means the techniques are common and it takes some examination to which artist has painted which picture Although some paintings might be more successful as paintings than others it is difficult to separate the work of individual painters. In the paintings themselves the painters are curiously absent. There are photos of the painters, which deny the anonymity of the painting's author. The women are all smiling, strong empowered women but there is no sense of themselves or their personality in their painting. Also although these might be women's paintings of women's dreaming we get only a very slight, if any at all, hint of the gender of the maker

What is very strong is the identification with the Dreaming and the painter's dedicated submission of their self and their life experiences to the meaning and representation to the meaning of the dreaming. The paintings are a kind of painted intention. The intentions being to somehow map recreate, to instruct or act as a mnemonic device for the recitation a dreaming story. Absolute belief gives these paintings their certainty and their shining elegant transparent conviction. This is the basis for the work's intensity and moving profundity. The painting is without doubt as it is not a story from the painter's life or an individual idea. That would be rife with interpretation and vulnerability. By stepping aside the painters allow the story in all the effortless ingenuous transparency of a profound belief system to reveal itself.

The role of these aboriginal artist's is to know and experience the dreaming story and to realise the story on a two dimensional surface with coloured marks Here in these paintings art can be described as "skill in making'.

The exhibition can be seen at the Cutcliffe Gallery, 589 King Street, Newtown (9517.2662) from June 1-15.

Dr. .Barry Gazzard
Sydney May 2002

Nancy Kunoth Petyare, Mountain Devil, Size 31 x 61 cm, $1 750.
Detail: Nancy Kunoth Petyare, Mountain Devil, Size 31 x 61 cm, $1 750.
Kathleen Purvis Kemarre, Bush Medicine 117 x 91 cm, $4 500.