In a remote corner of Arnhem Land sits Yirrkala Print Space, where, for over twenty years, the ancient craft of printmaking has not only survived, but prospered. A celebratory exhibition of this print space, Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression is presented by Artback NT in association with Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre. Warwick Art Gallery is honoured to be included in this very special tour.
Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression is a vibrant acknowledgement of the creative energies, talent and commitment of generations of Yolngu artists who have utilised and pushed the boundaries of such a medium to share significant cultural and historical stories.
With works from 50 artists, this exhibition includes prints that are historically significant. The Berndt Etchings series talks about the Berndt Crayon Drawings of Yirrkala, produced by the artists’ predecessors in 1947, while String Figure Prints are a response to another archaeological collection from 1948.
Pieces in Balnhdhurr also reveal the significant impact the introduction of bright acrylics had on artists, which allowed them to explore a whole new genre of artistic storytelling that became a joyous explosion of colour and expression.
Balnhdhurr is a coming together of cultures and time, providing an opportunity for a wider audience to recognise the accomplishments of a sustainable, functional and thriving print studio operating in an isolated landscape. Yirrkala Print Space began in 1995 when a purpose built area was designed to host a printing press. With over 800 editions by 137 produced through the studio since then, Yirrkala Print Space has become an integral and vital component of the community.
Image: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Hunting Dhawu, 2001, screenprint 47 x 39cm
To “bloom where you are planted”, credited to Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), is to recognise the potential of embracing life where you are instead of where you think you might be better off. It speaks to that elusive realisation that you have enough and that to achieve a sense of belonging you need to start by making a contribution yourself.
The works selected for the exhibition reflect the model of thriving in and contributing to community and more generally wholeheartedly embracing and living a creative life.
Jean de Courtenay Isherwood (1911 – 2006) left her bohemian Sydney lifestyle in 1974 to purchase property in Moombi and Tamworth. Her paintings are a celebration of natural beauty and extremes of the landscape. In 2004 Isherwood, aged 92, participated in an exhibition called Eighty and Over featuring seven other well-known Australian artists over the age of eighty. Her artwork Flowers in the Centre was included to celebrate this tenacity and artistic spirit.
John Rigby (1922 – 2012) beyond doubt bloomed where he was planted making major contributions to the cultural landscape of Brisbane in addition to creating an oeuvre rich in Queensland imagery and exceptional genre paintings. Rigby won many awards for his work which is held in major collections across the country. Morning Kitchen speaks volumes about the kitchen as the heart of the home and the “calm before the storm” experienced by many women at the break of dawn. The painting incorporates repetitive geometric shapes that are reminiscent of patchwork quilting enhanced by the warm pastel palette. This creates a peaceful picture of quiet domesticity.
Pene Edwards is a Brisbane based painter who continues to produce paintings today that have a very unique perspective of the land. The figurative elements in her compositions emerge from a dimensionless mélange resembling an aerial view of the landscape. The colours are celebratory and joyful applied in a way that suggests the artist’s love of mark making. Continental Memories is a fine example of Edwards’ style with the robust shapes reminiscent of the Australian Red Centre. The work’s title implies a journey and happy travel recollections.
The Ballet Roche (pictured), painted by Brisbane based and Warwick born artist Trisha Lambi, won the Warwick Acquisitive Art Prize in 2009. Lambi is an award winning artist with her studio located in Brisbane. Her work observes people and locations with the two combining to create, in her words, “a journey, sometimes unwelcome and heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but always illuminating”. The Ballet Roche is a particularly personal work featuring the artist herself alongside members of her family.
To the Water is a recent work by Warwick artist Jane Donaldson. Jane is a full time artist with her creative business thriving from her beautiful home south west of Warwick. It is Jane’s poetic imagery, profoundly influenced by home and family, that made her an essential addition to this themed exhibition. As a regional artist Jane is incredibly brave and humble about her success. Her artwork creates a peaceful retreat from the clutter of life.
Warakurna: All the Stories Got into our Minds and Eyes, is a collection of paintings which was produced at Warakurna, a community at the foot of the Rawlinson Ranges in Western Australia, 300 kilometres west of Uluru (Ayers Rock). The works are the product of Warakurna Artists, a thriving art centre in the heart of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.
The paintings in the Warakurna exhibition are more figurative in style than traditional Western Desert art. The artists from Warakurna use their painting to document their history – the coming of explorers, prospectors and missionaries, building roads, missile testing and their return to their homeland.
“These paintings provide first-hand accounts of significant events which shaped the lives of an Aboriginal community and help all Australians understand their complex history,” said Dr Mathew Trinca, the director of the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
The Warakurna exhibition was launched at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, in December, 2012 and is now touring the country.
Western Desert people were among the last groups of Aboriginal people in Australia to have contact with Europeans. Warakurna lay in the middle of the flight path of missiles launched from Woomera in the South Australian desert in the 1960s.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
Image: Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to See My Father’s Ngurra (Country) 2011 by Ken Shepherd acrylic on canvas
Acknowledgement: © Ken Shepherd courtesy of Warakurna artists
WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.