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Alice Springs news


Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT




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This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers

Publisher name

Erwin Chlanda

Place of publication

Alice Springs


v. 9 issue 26

File type



Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

Copyright owner

Erwin Chlanda



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"It's very sensual work." French's search has been fruitful. The majority of paintings in this exhibition come from private collections and many have not been seen in public before. They include some rare works, such as the portrait head, Neey-too-gulpa [c1937], one of only three documented to date, and the Central Australian Aboriginal standing figure [1937-42], the only one of its kind to have emerged. The sheer number of works that the exhibition has brought together is also significant. It has never happened before, says Roger Butler, NGA's Senior Curator of Australian prints and coordinator of the exhibition. "Most of the Namatjiras we're used to seeing are the works that became popular in the sixties after he died, when there were reproductions on postcards, posters, prints. "That was where I saw my first Namatjira, as a print in the school corridor. "We've never had an opportunity to look at the variety in a group like this. "It allows us to see that he's a lot more interesting than most people think. "We can see from work to work the decisions he's making about quality, colour, forms, all those things he's working with. "We can see he had lots of arrows in the bow, he was looking very, very closely at something he loved very, very greatly. "That's what comes across in this exhibition. "He comes back to the same subject over and over again, painting it at different times of day when the shadows are different, searching out its meaning, a bit like Monet, he tries to get right into his subject." In this regard, the exhibition is beautifully presented, the grouping of work more than usually meaningful. Take for example the group "Saplings and survival, portraits of trees". It allows appreciation of Namatjira's moving insight into trees "that have seen a lot of life", as Butler notes, but it also evokes strongly "a sense of how you move through land". French: "That tree's in front of a hill, you can see the possibility of moving up past it and through, whereas in the one beside it, the tree is on a rocky slope, you feel your feet slipping, and you can see a great gap beyond. "With Alumba at Glen Helen, we've come up and been confronted with it, we can go no further." Butler says the contemporary context for Aboriginal art also allows a re-assessment of Namatjira. "He was painting at a time when Aboriginal art was not considered as art. "If any of it was being collected it was by anthropological museums. "It's only in the last 20 years that Aboriginal art has found a place in art history. "That's extraordinary when you consider that Aboriginal art is now at the forefront of Australia's cultural export program, as the most exciting thing around. "Yet in 1982 when the National Gallery put up their Aboriginal art as art, it was considered revolutionary. "We're talking about 20 years in which there's been a complete 180 degree turnaround. "Now we can reassess Namatjira's art as something that prefigured, that came before, that led the way. "That's a very different way of thinking about him, not in isolation as the singular Aboriginal artist who happened to make good, but as the beginning of a whole contemporary Aboriginal art movement." Even now though, with the celebrations around the centenary of Namatjira's birth, and with this major exhibition, there is still a preoccupation with the impact on his life of, for instance, becoming an honorary citizen. "That deserves to be looked at, it is an extraordinary story," says Butler. "But what we've wanted to do here is to have a fresh look at his painting, not to forget the tragedy in his life, we need to learn from that, but we can learn from his art as well." LETTERS: The 'cousins' have ganging up in The Alice for 30 years. Sir,- Having spent the best part of 30 years growing up in "The Alice", I'm figuring that I can speak on the topic of the "cousins" behaviour (see lead story, last week's Alice News).

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