29
Nov
09

Review: ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings’ at DACOU Aboriginal Art, Port Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th October – 6th December 2009

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
My Country
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

“One can theorise about beauty all day, but words are weak and at day’s end one will go out into the blue and golden and multifarious world, and one will know with the responsive heart, before there is time for words, what is and isn’t beautiful.”

.
Leo Rubinfien1

 

 

There are certain existential experiences in art one will always remember:

.
The maelstrom of convulsive colours in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner at the Tate in London

Being alone in a gallery at the Louvre with six self-portraits by Rembrandt and embracing their inner humanity

Sitting in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris and being surrounded by the elemental forces of Monet’s panels of Nymphéas

Listening to “Sorrowful Songs” from the Symphony No. 3 by Gorecki

.
to name but a few.

Added to this list would be my experience of this exhibition of paintings by Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

It was a privilege to spend time alone with the work, just wandering around the gallery that is situated in an industrial estate in Port Melbourne. It is difficult for me to describe the experience such was the connection I had with the work, with the earth. I am emotional even writing about it. Standing in front of these paintings all pretensions of existence, all trappings of society, dissolve in colour, in presence.

I am a naturalised Australian having been born in England; I have never been to the far desert. This does not matter. What I felt, what I experienced was a connection to the land, to the stories that Emily has told in these paintings. We all come from the earth and return to it.

The paintings were painted horizontally (like the painter Jackson Pollock who intuitively accessed the spiritual realm) and evidence a horizontal consciousness not a hierarchical one. Knowledge is not privileged over wisdom. There is a balance between knowledge and wisdom – the knowledge gained through a life well lived and the wisdom of ancient stories that represent the intimacy of living on this world. The patterns and diversities of life compliment each other, are in balance.

Wisdom comes from the Indo-European root verb weid, “to see,” the same root from which words like vision come.2 In this sense these are “Vedic” paintings in that they are ancient, sacred teachings, Veda meaning literally “I have seen.”

On this day I saw. I felt.

Rarely do I have such an emotional reaction to art. When it does happen it washes over me, it cleanses my soul and releases pent up emotions – about life, about mortality, about being.

As Cafe del Mar in one of their songs, “The Messenger” sing:

“We,
We got the feeling of Mystery,
We got the touch of humanity,
I know, we can’t live forever.”

.
Go and be touched.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Thank you to Leanne Collier and DACOU Aboriginal Art for allowing me to reproduce the three large photographs of two Wildflower paintings and one My Country painting.

 

  1. Rubinfien, Leo. “Perfect Uncertainty: Robert Adams and the American West, (2002)” on Americansuburb X: Theory. [Online] Cited 22/11/2009 no longer available online
  2. Doczi, Gyorgy. The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture. Colorado: Shambala Publications, 1981, p. 127

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
My Country
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
My Country
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
My Country
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye is Australia’s most important and famous female artist. Hailed as a modernist ‘genius’, she has been compared to Rothko and de Kooning. An Anmatyerre elder from Utopia in the remote central desert region of the Northern Territory, Emily first took up painting on canvas in her late 70’s. She quickly became one of the leaders in the contemporary Aboriginal art movement, transforming her style several times during her short career of eight years. Today she is known as one of the greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.

This important exhibition of over 80 pieces covering all significant series and periods of Emily Kngwarreye’s artistic career is the first commercial retrospective exhibition to be held since she passed away in 1996. It gives the public an outstanding chance to view and purchase works in each of her styles. DACOU has retained numerous magnificent pieces over the years that will be included in this exhibition, such as rarely seen works from Emily’s Ochre Series, created with ochre and charcoal she collected from her country. On show will be the sister painting to the famous Earth’s Creation (also titled Earth’s Creation, 1994, 4 panels, 211 x 596 cm) and just as splendid in colour and style.

Text from the DACOU Aboriginal Art website [Online] Cited 27/11/2009 no longer available online

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
Wildflower
1992
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
Wildflower (detail)
1992
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

Inspired by her cultural life as an Anmatyerre elder Emily produced over 3000 paintings over the course of her short eight-year painting career. Her lifelong custodianship of the women’s Dreaming sites of her clan country and in particular her yam Dreaming is the driving force behind her work (Kame meaning yam seed). Her work displays an instinct created by decades of making art for private purposes, drawing in soft earth and ritual body painting. Strong lineal structures whereupon individual dots overlap lines and appearing within others trace the appearance of seeds, plants and tracks on her country.

Text from the University of Canberra website [Online] Cited 11/05/2019

 

 

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Australian, 1910-1996)
Wildflower
1994
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

 

 

DACOU Aboriginal Art

This gallery has now closed.

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4 Responses to “Review: ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings’ at DACOU Aboriginal Art, Port Melbourne”


  1. 1 Karoline
    August 26, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Very nice paintings!

    Please visit my dot painting
    http://www.karoline-art.com

  2. June 25, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I have tried to leave a comment on this blog and every time I submit the form times out the comment or gives an error. Can the author possibly look into the reason there is a problem?


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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