Territory Stories

Desert Mob Catalogue : 2014



Desert Mob Catalogue : 2014


Araluen Arts Centre


Desert Mob Catalogue; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Desert Mob Catalogue




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Aboriginal Australians -- Australia, Central -- Art -- Exhibitions -- Catalogs; Art, Australian -- Australia, Central -- Exhibitions -- Catalogs

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Araluen Arts Centre

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Alice Springs


Desert Mob Catalogue



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Araluen Arts Centre



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11 The Story Continues Kieran Finnane Artists and art centres have always been in charge to a high degree in Desert Mob: the work, obviously, and its selection have been in their hands. Like a river changing its course, each Desert Mob has been different with the bubbling up of new ideas and talents, influences, maturities, explosions of brilliance here in the east, there in the west, then the south, next the north. Among the influences the market has probably been the greatest: artists and art centres want the income, recognition and opportunities that market success provides. Desert Mob has been witness to some of its hype: it has seen the rise to dominance of painting on canvas, particularly of large works commanding very high prices, and the cooling of this interest. Yet with that has come a certain push back, with artists finding new ways to connect, exploring new media and modes of expression, responding to different opportunities. Desert Mob has provided an important seeding and testing ground for doing this, and its fruits have been seen far and wide. As well, with the advent of the Symposium, artists and art centres have seized the chance to take greater charge of the discourse, articulating intent and experience, and providing the background and interpretive material that allows a deeper appreciation of their work. In 2012 the Symposium heard the old men of Tjala Arts outline their plans for a work of art like a movie, using light and sound as well as objects they were to craft. These would be spears kulata fashioned in the time-honoured way, old men teaching young men. Weapons, yes, for hunting and fighting, and at the same time symbols of cultural potency. The work would fully occupy the space a viewer was drawn into in the language of contemporary art, an installation1. The work, Kulata Tjuta, came into being for the first time in this years Adelaide Biennial, a survey of contemporary Australian art2 presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia. A bristling force field of spears hung from the dim space above. Light threw the spears shadows down the wall and across the floor like a hard rain. A soundscape carried the voices of the spearmakers3 into the room as if on a wind from the desert. It was an adventurous statement about the now of Pitjantjatjara traditions. In 2013 the Symposium heard from Martumili Artists about the We Dont Need a Map project. It had begun its exposure in a series of exhibitions the year before, bringing a Martu experience of the Western Desert to the city. This continued at the Adelaide Biennial where they too immersed their audience in an installation. Their dazzling canvas Yarrkalpa (Hunting ground), three metres by five, the work of eight women painters4 would always have had an impact, but they went a step further, extending the collaboration to video artist Lynette Wallworth (from Sydney) and singer Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons, from New York). Wallworths serenely-paced films of the women in their country walking, hunting, burning, simply being, day following night were projected on the flanking walls, while in front of the visitors, as Antonys ethereal voice washed over them, Yarrkalpa unfolded in a time-lapse video. The artists were filmed from above as they came and went and positioned themselves to work on their huge canvas, their hunting ground burgeoning beneath them. Visitors then had to walk around the screen to see the finished painting, stunning in its efflorescence of colour and motif. This kind of curtain-raising on the painting made for an even more expansive invitation into the artists world. Aboriginal art sent to market has always been on this kind of mission, but these innovative works, by the Martu women and the Tjala men, show the artists finely attuned to other possibilities for reaching a wider or different audience, of going where perhaps now paint on canvas cannot, or at least not so forcefully. This may have less to do with the market (where Willy Kaika Burton (pictured), Hector Burton, Ray Ken, Mick Wikilyiri, Frank Young, Kunmanara Wangin and Kunmanara Tiger Kulata Tjuta (many spears) (detail), 201314 punu (wood) and malu pulykungka (kangaroo tendon), single-channel soundscape Collection the artists and courtesy Tjala Arts, Amata