Posts Tagged ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings

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

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Thankyou 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 below.

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“One can theorize 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 Rubinfien 1

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1994

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

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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

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to name but a few

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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 inner 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.

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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.”
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Go and be touched.

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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“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

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1992

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’ (detail)
1992

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1. Rubinfien, Leo. “Perfect Uncertainty: Robert Adams and the American West, (2002)” on Americansuburb X: Theory. [Online] Cited 22/11/2009. www.americansuburbx.com/2008/01/theory-perfect-uncertainty-robert-adams.html

2. Doczi, Gyorgy. The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture. Colorado: Shambala Publications, 1981, p.127.

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DACOU Aboriginal Art
10 B Phillip Court, Port Melbourne, 3207, Melways Ref: 42, H11
Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm

Dacou Aboriginal Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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