When the president of the Brittany Regional Council, Loïg Chesnais-Girard, visited Adelaide last year, hosted by Prime Minister Steven Marshall, he visited the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Upon entering the gallery lobby from North Terrace, the first piece of art he encountered was a monumental three-panel painting called KangkuraKu Tjukurpa (The story of a sister), by the five Ken sisters and their mother, Paniny Mick. It is pure pyrotechnics in painting.
The dynamic energy of the painting, created in the lands of Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY), had an immediate effect. The President experienced something for the very first time: contemporary Aboriginal art from South Australia, the newest art from the world’s oldest living culture.
The idea for a traveling exhibition arose at this precise moment, and with it, the commitment that the art of the APY Lands and Tarnanthi, AGSA’s flagship celebration of Aboriginal and Strait Islander art. Torres, would have an international presence in Brittany.
More than a year later and the Kulatand Tjuta the exhibition opens tomorrow at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes.
At a time when even local and national exhibition programs have been seriously interrupted, the staging of this international exhibition is a true testament to the adaptability and creative genius of the Aṉangu.
Thirty-four artists are pictured in an exhibition named after an ongoing culture-sustaining initiative that involves Aṉangu elders teaching young men to make spears Kulatand Tjuta.
Although an installation work of the same name, comprising 550 spears, was the centerpiece of the exhibition, COVID-19 altered the gallery’s plans and a new exhibition, mainly focused on painting, was developed. .
The artists and the APY Art Center Collective seized this opportunity in a year of disruptions and cancellations to shine on the international scene. The resulting exhibition is a gesture of cultural diplomacy between the sister regions of Brittany and South Australia.
Several of the paintings were produced at the APY Art Center collective in Adelaide by the next generation of star painters, including Nyunmiti Burton, who recently received the Roberts Family Prize as part of the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The beauty of the works of art on display can veil their cultural and political power. Together, these works tell the story of a new movement in Australian art history and the importance of art centers in generating cultural and economic outcomes.
As Burton states:
“Today, almost all of the men and women who live in APY communities are involved in their art center. The cultures of men and women are joyfully celebrated and carefully educated in the studios of art centers across APY lands. The art centers all started out small, but with Aṉangu’s hard work and commitment, they grew strong and continue to grow today.
We are proud that there are so many innovative, courageous and committed artists working on the APY Lands… We hope that this exhibition will be the start of a long friendship between Brittany and the APY region. We dedicate this exhibition to the women leaders who started the APY art movement and to the leaders who have followed. Here is their story. “
Along with the many vivid paintings are a suite of photographs by artist Robert Fielding and his wall installation of weapons and tools, including kulata (spears) and miru (lance throwers) in wood and bronze.
In the 200-page book that accompanies the exhibition, written in French, Breton, English and Pitjantjatjara, Fielding explains:
the miru (spear launcher) gives direction to the forces of the kaaṯa (lance). There is no power without direction. These objects help keep the culture strong and allow the story, song and dance to be passed down from generation to generation, helping young people in life, holding our stories.
As Kulatand Tjuta opens in Brittany, here in Adelaide the fifth Tarnanthi exhibition, entitled Open hands, opens at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Everyone is invited to attend the virtual launch on the gallery’s website at 6 p.m. today, October 15.
Dr Lisa Slade is Deputy Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Kulatand Tjuta is presented with the support of the Government of South Australia, the APY Art Center Collective and the Art Gallery of South Australia through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art with Principal Partner BHP. Kulata Tjuta is also presented with the support of the Brittany Region, the City of Rennes and the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes and will be from October 16, 2020 to January 3, 2021.
Adelaide audiences can discover Kulatand Tjuta through the publication of the exhibition, available in the AGSA store in the coming weeks.
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