Articles on Indigenous art

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Detail from Percy Leason, Thomas Foster, 1934, oil on canvas, 76.0 x 60.8 cm, State Library Victoria, Melbourne. Gift of Mrs Isabelle Leason, 1969 (H32094) © Max Leason

Friday essay: painting ‘The Last Victorian Aborigines’

Anthropologist Percy Leason thought he was painting the extinction of Victoria's Indigenous people in the 1930s. He was wrong, but his portraits, part of a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, are surprisingly sympathetic.
Brenda L. Croft. shut/mouth/scream (detail) 2016 Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

Defying Empire: the legacy of 1967

The National Gallery of Australia's Third National Indigenous Art Triennial presents a passionate well-considered argument for an enduring Aboriginal culture.
Part of Mandy Martin’s painting Cool Burn (2016): in her painting workshops at Djinkarr, Indigenous rangers brought the threats to their land to life on canvas.

Friday essay: caring for country and telling its stories

Feral cats and pigs, mission grass and climate change - in western Arnhem Land, Indigenous rangers are battling many environmental threats. Through painting and performance, they are also telling 'healthy country' stories.
Indigenous games like ‘Honour Water’ can teach Indigenous values and ceremonial practices. Honour Water/Elizabeth LaPensée

Video games encourage Indigenous cultural expression

A strengthening movement of Indigenous designers and developers is working to show Indigenous cultures, teachings, languages and ways of knowing through video games.
Detail of Brook Andrew, Sexy and dangerous 1996. courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Here’s Looking at: Brook Andrew’s Sexy and dangerous

A 20th-century image of an anonymous 'Aboriginal Chief' becomes an investigation of power, colonialism and queer sexuality in the hands of Brook Andrew.
A fruit cart depicting a ‘picanniny’ child: such figures were popular at a time when Aboriginal children were being removed from their families. Author provided

Friday essay: the politics of Aboriginal kitsch

What are we to make of 'Aboriginalia': bric-a-brac, tiles, ornaments and artworks - once hugely popular - depicting caricatures of Indigenous people? What if they are collected now in a knowing, ironic way?
Detail of Judy Watson, black ground (1989) courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria. © Judy Watson/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

Here’s looking at: black ground, 1989 by Judy Watson

Judy Watson pours ochre and pigment onto unstretched canvases laid on the ground. The puddling and drying created an image of a simple termite mound with a profound connection to country.
The 1,200 year old Umayyad Mosque – also known as the Great Mosque of Aleppo – lost its minaret (on left) in 2013 after continued heavy gunfire between rebels and Syrian government forces. Reuters

Friday essay: war crimes and the many threats to cultural heritage

It is important to prosecute militants who destroy antiquities. But 'everyday' development - from dams flooding towns to the impact of mining on Indigenous rock art – does vastly more damage to heritage than war.
Richard Ffarington painted idealised versions of Aboriginal people, as in King George Sound, 1840s. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia

Unknown Land: mapping and imagining Western Australia

The first Europeans to arrive in Western Australia were baffled by the strange land they saw. A new exhibition explores the Arcadia artists tried to transpose over native plants and people.
Fifty years after the Maralinga atomic tests, an exhibition grapples with the pain and devastation left behind. Karen Standke, Road to Maralinga II (detail). Supplied

Black Mist Burnt Country asks: what remains after the mushroom cloud?

The Maralinga atomic tests were devastating to life and land in Central Australia. Black Mist Burnt Country brings together dozens of artistic responses in a powerful, but somewhat incoherent memorial.
Rika Hamaguchi from the Bangarra Dance Theatre performs at the culmination of the barrangal dyara exhibition. Photo Peter Greig/Kaldor Public Art Projects

Review: barrangal dyara (skin and bones) was made flesh

Jonathan Jones uses Aboriginal shields to create a skeleton of Sydney's Garden Palace, destroyed by fire in 1882. In song, dance and sculpture, he celebrates what has been lost and rediscovered.
Lithograph, ‘Burning of the Garden Palace, Sydney’, Gibbs Shallard and Company, Sydney, 1882. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.

Lighting spotfires under a palace of colonial power

Sydney's Garden Palace, which burned to the ground in 1882, was a monument to empire's glory. Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones is now working on an epic exhibition that will explore this historical epoch from an Aboriginal perspective.
Detail of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Dibirdibi Country – Topway 2016. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Collection Image courtesy Alcaston Gallery © The Estate of the Artist and Viscopy Australia

Here’s looking at: Dibirdibi Country – Topway by Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori began painting in her 80s, and over ten years created an extraordinary body of work. Her paintings are more like music and dance – depicting the stories of the Kaiadilt people for the first time.

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