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LU|GURRMA NORTH BUKU-LARR|GAY MULKA


LU|GURRMA / NORTH BUKU-LARR|GAY MULKA ARTISTS

Aspen Colorado USA 09 January - 10 February 2015

Brumby-Ute 501 East Hyman Avenue Aspen, Colorado 81611 USA


Malaluba Gumana |o\girr\a Marawili Dhuwarrwarr Marika Naminapu Maymuru-White Rerrkirrwa\a Munu\gurr Djirrirra Wunu\murra Liyawaday Wirrpanda Gulumbul Yunupi\u Nyapanyapa Yunipi\u Gunybi Ganambarr Waturr Gumana Djambawa Marawili AM Napuwarri Marawili Barayuwa Munu\gurr Yumutjin Wunu\murra Garawan Wa]ambi Wukun Wa]ambi Yilpirr Wa]ambi


On Board

When American collector Louis A. Allen arrived in Yirrkala in the late 1950s, he recognized the power of Yol\u art in ways that Anglo-Australians hadn’t previously. In doing so, Allen set off an explosion of energy and confidence amongst the elders and artists which leads to this important exhibition at Brumby-Ute in Aspen, Colorado more than fifty years later. Paradoxically it was the astonishing lack of outside influence on Yol\u art that stunned Allen and other collectors such as Kapka, Scougall and Tuckson when they confronted the Yol\u art in the 1950’s, twenty years after white settlement in Arnhemland. Here was a cogent, artistic vocabulary and aesthetic that was virtually free standing and unindebted to outside conceptions. In 1950, such a find was a literal Xanadu - as by this time most other artworlds had merged to become a massive polyglot soup. What defines the progress of art from Yol\u people through the intervening decades is a stubborn adherence to an internal wellspring that is deeply imbedded in a unique cultural bedrock. The community and the artists themselves have lived through the equivalent of twenty generations of social change in a span of a mere 300 years. Amazingly, the stresses inherent in that experience have not eroded the strength of the Yol\u aesthetic in the way that circumstance has eaten into many of the overall institutional structures of Yol\u society. The core of Yol\u society and art is an understanding of existence that places people within a coherent, cyclical, infinite tapestry of meaning which gives individuals within the community an unconditional identity and belonging. This world is made and remade continually through the exercise of language, ceremony, art, song, dance and ritual. The exhibition Lu\gurrma (North) that opens in the midst of an American winter is a manifestation of that cultural resistance. It is “Ceremony” that continues to hold the community intact and allows thoughts and actions of this relatively tiny group of humanity in North East Arnhemland to pool into the broader global stream, to inform the enquiry and join the contemporary dialog : What is it to be human? Where do we come from? What should we do? The work in this exhibition stands as vital contemporary art regardless of its ethnographic depth. Unlike much of Western art there is a certainty and surety within the architecture of these works. Although shunned and sidelined by the dominant Anglo culture, the artists represented here state their own understandings of these big questions boldly and unwaveringly. The designs, markings and even the base material of this exhibition are all stamped uniquely of this time. Such an exhibition could not have been contemplated even three years ago. In September 2014 Australia’s premier Indigenous dance company, Bangarra Dance Theatre came to Yirrkala to pay tribute to the Yol\u for sharing their dances at the


company’s inception 25 years ago. They performed on the community basketball court, under the stars, on a stage made that day from boards they had brought with them. That stage has now become this exhibition, as the artists recycled the boards (imbued now with the spirit of the dancers) to become their individual canvasses. In doing so, the artists chose to make a radical departure from the conventions of seventy years of art production and unknown millennia of cultural observance under the edict from elders - “if you are going to paint the land, use the land”. The representation of sacred designs with legal effect must be done only with natural media. This convention was confirmed in 1996 when the Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center established its Print Space. There was concern that the power to represent land through its essential design (which confers ownership on the knowledge holder) could be misused where art was made by machine. But recently young artists have stretched the definition of ‘land’ to include the items discarded on it. This has been accepted so that recycled, as well as naturally occurring media, can be used. Accordingly the works in this historic exhibition are painted with the clays, ground rocks and ochers of the artists’ own country - but on discarded recycled board. There is much more going on artistically than a simple change of media. In the late 1990s Yol\u art was liberated from a somewhat stilted relationship with the wider audience. Sacred art had always had the vigour and power of life itself but restrictions had ossified around what could and could not be shown to the outside world. In 1998 as part of a successful political and legal campaign to protect the ritual sanctuaries within the ocean Djambawa Marawili led his elders and peers to a new freedom in portraying the Law through art. Currents and ripples and waves were allowed to disturb the formal composition. Heavy totemic figures were allowed to sink into the patterned waters and reveal the true nature of existence. A new generation of artists has evolved without the restrictions placed on the artists when Louis A. Allen first arrived. So today, this artwork which was created in the extreme tropical heat and humidity of North East Arnhemland will be shown in the heart of snowbound Aspen. And this seems appropriate, for at the core of Yol\u philosophy is that no matter how seemingly remote we are from each other, our connections cannot be denied. It is our commonalities that draw us in, that bring us together and allow us to reach for the understandings inherent in the marks, but ultimately to feel rather than know. If the artists of 2015 and the audience of 2015 can find the same connection that Allen found with their elders in 1959 then there is a sense in which we can all be satisfied that the torch is being carried forward on both sides. Will Stubbs Art Co-ordinator Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center (1995-Present)


A Glimpse Behind the Scene

Earlier this year a pile of boards were stacked under my house to be saved one day for some pipe-dream-do-it-yourself project. Instead they were dusted off and taken away one by one to a select group of talented Yol\u painters. Bruce Munuggurr and I both assign a board with an artist in mind, discuss its destination, and then load each of them onto the roof of his Toyota Land cruiser, ready for a 4-hour drive to a remote homeland in North East Arnhem Land. This unique project, carefully curated for the purpose of a significant winter exhibition at Brumby-Ute in Aspen Colorado, showcases some of the best contemporary Yol\u painters. Each artist accepts the challenge of working in a new media and understands the importance of this historic show as a collective representation of contemporary Yol\u culture and art. Six weeks later, back at the art center, boards covered in plastic sheets stained by the red dust of ‘the track’ begin to appear. The boards arrived wrapped in a sheet of anticipation and intrigue. As each new board was uncovered from its plastic, I was consistently struck by the painstaking amount of work that each artist dedicated to resolving their individual board. Each composition was executed to precision. No discussion or progress shots were exchanged; only faith and acceptance operated between the select Yolngu artists that they would deliver unique works for this historic exhibition. And they did, as they have done time and time again. With the exception of two artists, No\girr\a Marawili and Nyapanyapa Yunupi\u, this is how the art arrives to the Buku art center. No\girr\a and Nyapanyapa work each day at the art center. The grind of the rock to create the ocher is a constant background sound that underlines the extensive labor and cultural dedication Yolngu artists have to their paintings. Over the days a pattern that began in one corner of an artist’s board slowly bleeds across the surface to expose a sacred body of water or a coastline owned and celebrated by generation after generation of their people. These patterns are cornerstones of remarkable compositions that reflect a true conviction of profound beauty and cultural meaning. No\girr\a crawls across her canvas in a performative manner, extending each brush stroke with a clear knowledge of what she is painting and how each piece will resolve. Bold, unsteady hand movements give her works a raw aesthetic and her use of negative space lends strength to each line creating a unique code of abstract black voids. The viewer is visually unsure which to follow. Nyapanyapa’s deliberate strokes with her thin, single-hair brush, repeated over and over, suggests a mediative process to her work. Each line or shift in direction or change of color is like watching a well-scripted piece of theatre unfold. Nyapanyapa’s board for the Aspen exhibition at Brumby-Ute, employs a final wash of Gapan


(white clay) that completes her piece and creates a deft balance between crossing hatching pattern and the figuration. Nyapanyapa’s creative genius rivals the best artists working today and she is considered one of Australia’s greatest contemporary exports. I have the privilege of working alongside these Yol\u artists - whether driving miles out in the bush for a visit or with observing those who find their way and work daily at the Buku art center. My excitement of seeing works arrive from the homelands, or watching compositions being resolved on the floor of the art center studio - this is a true gift. But what rises even above this is to view these historic works for the first time in a public exhibition, knowing that these sacred stories of an ancient living culture are being shared.

Kade McDonald Art Co-ordinator Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center

Artist Nyapanyapa Yunupi\u painting at Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center


Resurrecting a Dialog

As an Australian curator based in the USA, I am continually struck by the potency of the Indigenous art that continues to be created from across all regions of my country. This artwork has not only become compelling to serious collectors but it has emerged today with even more relevancy, especially in context of a rapidly-paced global art market. Australian Indigenous art informs and underpins what many of us in the West have forgotten. In the quest for the ‘great chase’ and persistent trophy hunting seen at auction houses, art fairs and across commercial art markets, we have been distracted and have grown accustomed to a diluted conversation within the contemporary art world. Where once western culture spoke of authenticity, recognized inspiration, and respected the power of nature in attempting to frame and answer larger human questions, today it has divorced itself from this dialog. In fact, modern western society oftentimes only sees these influences as a forum for exploitation. The art in this exhibition Lu\gurrma is the polar opposite. Specifically, this art from a remote region of northern Australia speaks of a cultural truth, its reverence for the land, and a human relationship to it. In Yirrkala, Yol\u artists work with natural materials that proliferate in their homeland like the stringybark eucalyptus which forests and hugs rocky outcroppings where freshwater and saltwater converge. The ochers that are embedded in the rocks and soil are the pigments that lend their colors to the artist palette. Maintained by almost continuous ceremonial activity, the land provides all the traditional elements for an artist studio - pigments, bark and hollow logs. The featured artists in this exhibition have expanded their vision and experimented with new materials employing boards from the discarded stage of Australia’s Indigenous Dance Theater, Bangarra. These painted boards explicitly reflect the over-


arching vision of Bangarra, which is “to respect and rekindle the links between traditional Indigenous cultures of Australia and explore new forms of contemporary artistic expression.� This exhibition does exactly that - it illustrates the artistic synergy between two creative expressive forms of cultural identity. What makes these paintings unique is not just the sheer dimensional scale (which is a first for each of these artists), rather these boards now hold the energy of performance and bodily expression along with a visual narrative expressed through the application of ground pigment, painted with a Marwat (a delicate brush composed of minuscule strands of human hair) by artists who willingly share knowledge, experience and understanding. Yol\u people for millennia express their culture though painting, song, dance and ceremony. One does not exist without the other. Perhaps this is what makes these works so authentically contemporary and these artists - who embrace change and participate in preserving culture - so vital in re-nourishing a conversation that has been diminished within contemporary art circles. Today Australian Indigenous Art is recognized as Australia’s greatest export. It is an art movement that is beyond the shape and form of any western visual counterpart. This landmark international exhibition from Australia is more than just another survey into Indigenous Art. Lu\gurrma masterfully asserts the notion of what contemporary art should aim to be. It is a reminder of a truth which all art should facilitate a dialog that informs, inspires and ultimately poses questions of how we, the viewer, inform our own reasons for being.

Julie Harvey Director Harvey Art Projects USA


BOARDS PAIR 1 |o\girr\a Marawili Baratjula Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4656P

|o\girr\a Marawili Baratjula Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4654T

BOARDS PAIR 2 |o\girr\a Marawili Baratjula Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4646A

|o\girr\a Marawili Baratjula Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4643T

BOARDS PAIR 3

Napuwarri Marawili Burrut’tji at Baraltja Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog # 4668V

Barayuwa Munu\gurr Mu\yuku Miny’tji Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4654A

BOARDS PAIR 4

Nyapanyapa Yunupi\u Yol\u Miyalk Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4669L

BOARDS PAIR 5 Malaluba Gumana Garrimala Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4667U

Djirrirra Wunu\murra Yukuwa Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4666I Djirrirra Wunu\murra Yukuwa Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4655P

BOARDS PAIR 6

Djambawa Marawili AM Baru at Yathikpa Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4676E

Yumutjin Wu\umurra Dhalwa\u Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4677K


BOARDS PAIR 7

Garawan Wa\ambi Marra\u at Raymangir Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4661W

Garawan Wa\ambi Marra\u at Raymangir Natural pigments on board 95” x 47” (240 x 120 cm) Catalog #4661Z

BARKS (L-R) No\girr\a Marawili Yathikpa Natural earth pigments on bark 30.7” x 82.3” (78 x 209 cm) Catalog #4342V

No\girr\a Marawili Yathikpa Natural earth pigments on bark 68” x 24.5” (176 x 62 cm) Catalog #4460O

No\girr\a Marawili Yathikpa Natural earth pigments on bark 72” x 32” (183 x 83 cm) Catalog #4431I

LARRAKITJ (L-R)

Liyawaday Wirrpanda Barayuwa Munu\gurr Gunybi Ganambarr Djirrirra Wunu\murra Malaluba Gumana No\girr\a Marawili Gulumbul Yu\upi\u

No\girr\a Marawili Naminapu Maymuru-White Djirrirra Wunu\murra Waturr Gumana Garawan Wa]ambi Yilpirr Wa]ambi


LU|GURRMA / NORTH BUKU-LARR|GAY MULKA ARTISTS

Brumby-Ute Aspen, Colorado 1.09.15 - 2.10.15

Acknowledgements: Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center Art Co-ordinators Will Stubbs & Kade McDonald for their unwavering support and vision. Special thanks to the inspirational artists from Buku-Lar\gay Mulka Center who have so generously shared their culture. Heartfelt thanks to all who have assisted in making this groundbreaking USA exhibit a reality.

harvey art projects usa

501 East Hyman Ave Aspen Colorado 81611 USA 970.920.5081 www.brumby-ute.com exhibit@brumby-ute.com

Copyright: Harvey Art Projects USA & Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center 2015 Images courtesy Buku-Larr\gay Mulka Center


Buku-Larrnggay Mulka - Aspen 2015  

The featured artists in this exhibition have expanded their vision and experimented with new materials employing boards from the discarded s...

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