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gija contemporary art of western australia

Cover: Beryline Mung, Untitled, 55 x 39� (140 x 100 cm) natural ocher and piments on canvas, Warmun Catalog #339/13 This page: Gabriel Nodea and Dougie Macale performing a joonba called Binyjirrminy doo Lalanggarrany (Bat and Crocodile), sung by Phyllis Thomas. Photo by Alana Hunt.

One Spirit: WARMUN CONTEMPORARY ART OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA “Black people and white people, we’re all a bit mixed up now. Many white people don’t understand Gija, while we Gija, we know English. We all get along today, we’re friends now. It wasn’t always this way. We’re beginning to understand each other. Our languages are all different but we’re coming together. Gija (Warmun), Jaru (Halls Creek), Gooniyandi (Fitzroy Crossing), English and Chinese – all these languages are in Australia and they are mixing.” Artist Rusty Peters The reductive simplicity of Gija painting, it’s use of traditional ocher and balancing of color and form, these are all qualities that make the art of the East Kimberley so unique. Whether they are stories about the landscape, or stories from the cultural landscape, for Gija people country is always a priori. The works in this exhibition are all intimately linked to country through shared experiences, history and language. Country, language and skin are the cornerstones of Gija culture, and they run deeply through it at every turn. All cultures, whether indigenous or non-indigenous, exist in a state of flux and Gija culture is no exception. The Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) stories of the Gija people are not just a series of creation stories, it is also a lived and contemporary experience. It provides its own lessons and beliefs, and at the same time it modifies those beliefs in response to the realities of contemporary life and the shifting expectations of modern culture. While this can at times be a source of tension within indigenous communities as the artists try to reconcile the traditional and the modern, it also offers up many opportunities for growth and development, for changing beliefs and cultural practices.

The thing that makes the paintings in this exhibition unique though, is not so much the cultural perspectives they share, but the differences between the works, the individual perspectives that the artists bring to their work as they breathe their own ideas to life. In this way these paintings are both a celebration of a shared heritage and a celebration of difference and innovation. All of the work in this USA exhibition tells a story about what it is to see the world through Gija eyes and each painting carries a new view, a new perspective that adds to the richness and complexity of the culture as a whole. With every new painting, there is a new telling. Three of the senior artists, Mabel Juli, Lena Nyadbi and Rusty Peters, are notable for the way in which they bring a contemporary voice to stories that are thousands of years old, and make those stories relevant to us all. In a sense, they speak across cultures. Rusty Peters work has emerged from traditional stories and methods of depicting country, and today speaks to more universal themes of human engagement. His painting talks of how we are many races but one spirit, and that over time we are all slowly coming towards an understanding of each other’s ways. Mabel Juli and Lena Nyadbi also tie Ngarranggarni stories to contemporary times and remind us that we are all part of a continuum of cultural transmission spanning many centuries. In this sense, the works on display here are stories that show us we have a shared experience of life, that there are more things connecting us than keeping us divided, or as Rusty Peters says, ‘we are all one spirit’. Harvey Art Projects USA gratefully acknowledge the participating Warmun artists in this debut USA exhibition. We also appreciate the support and guidance from Johnathon Kimberley, Adam Boyd and Alana Hunt.

LENA NYADBI, Untitled, 59 x 59� (150 x 150 cm), natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #161/13

MABEL JULI, Untitled, 55 x 39� (140 x 100 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #391/13

RUSTY PETERS, Untitled (detail), 47 x 35� (120 x 90 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #445/11

CHURCHILL CANN, Untitled, 59 x 59� (150 x 150 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #643/13

KATHY RAMSEY, JACK’S YARD (detail), 59 x 20” (150 x 50 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #567/13

GORDON BARNEY, Untitled (detail), 44 x 36� (120 x 90 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #579/12

PHYLLIS THOMAS, Untitled (detail), 47 x 35� (120 x 90 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #757/12

BETTY CARRINGTON, DARRAJAYIN, 55 x 39� (140 x 100 cm) natural ocher and pigments on canvas, Catalog #605/13

Beryline Mung Lena Nyadbi Mabel Juli Rusty Peters Churchill Cann Kathy Ramsey Gordon Barney Phyllis Thomas Betty Carrington Rammey Ramsey David Cox Lorraine Daylight

RAMMEY RAMSEY, Untitled, 35 x 47� (90 x 120 cm) synthetic polymer on plyboard, Catalog #571/12

On view 14 Feb - 10 March 2014 Sun Valley, USA 391 First Avenue North Ketchum, ID 83340 USA | Phone (208) 309-8676 Copyright 2014 Harvey Art Projects USA & Warmun Art Center Images courtesy Warmun Art Center, Johnathon Kimberley & Alana Hunt Back cover: Purnululu, East Kimberley, Western Australia (Photo by Paul Exline)


ART CENTRE Gija Contemporary Art Western Australia


Warmun 2014  

Harvey Art Projects USA proudly presents Warmun Artists debut Exhibition in America. Located 200 km south of Kununurra in Western Australia,...

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