Traditional source, modern take

VISUAL ARTS: Louise Martin-Chew | July 31, 2008 The Australian

Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award 2008

Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. Until October 12.
THE third year of the Queensland Art Gallery’s emerging indigenous art award again has a focused selection of innovative contemporary art, showing several works from 10 artists.

And emerging doesn’t necessarily mean young: work from 98-year-old Loongkoonan hangs alongside that of 20-year-old Beaver Lennon.

The two previous award winners worked in non-traditional media: Jonathan Jones with a sculptural installation using light bulbs; and Genevieve Grieves with a moving video installation, Picturing the Old People.

Following these two, the 2008 winner, Gunybi Ganambarr, would appear at first glance to be a more traditional choice. Closer inspection reveals that, with his winning work, innovation continues to dominate this award.

Ganambarr is from the Ngaymil people of Arnhem Land. His Burrut’tji at Baraltja tells of the lightning serpent Mandukul, an important Yolngu story. He uses the local bark painting tradition but there is significant innovation in the way the bark is carved and incised and filled with pigment, lifting the visual dynamics.

The work is large (2.19mx91cm) and its sinuous and undulating line makes for compelling viewing.

Ganambarr’s other work, which includes memorial poles (also subtly coloured and incised), suggests he has a strong future.

Books feature in Archie Moore’s entries: the Bible in his Maltheism series and an art book showing a reproduction of Albert Namatjira’s work in Sacred Sights (The First Intervention). In most of these works, a church is constructed from the pages of the open book: small, delicately made and seemingly humble, their conceptual strength is drawn from the pairing of text and paper sculpture. The reference to Namatjira is intriguing alongside Lennon’s super-real landscapes, which share something of Namatjira’s palette and the picturesque tradition.

The range is extensive: Glenn Pilkington’s digital abstractions from the city; married couple Josie Kunoth Petyarre and Dinni Kunoth Kemarre’s roughly carved and painted depictions of football players, the local police Toyota and a horse and cowboy; and more traditional paintings from Daniel Walbidi, Patsy Marfura and Milly Kelly.

This is the final year of the Xstrata award and the QAG Gallery of Modern Art, perhaps continuing the theme of innovation, is looking at a different approach to presenting contemporary indigenous art.

Traditional source, modern take


Fortitude Valley, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

My work mentioned in a tiny review of the Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award 2008 in The Australian newspaper July 31, 2008.
Review by Louise Martin-Chew.

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