Postcards from Noongar Country

The deeply personal connection that binds indigenous artists to their country is abundantly evident in Postcards from Noongar Country, exhibiting until this Saturday at the Albany Town Hall.

The artists of Mungart Boodja Art Centre have collectively created an exhibition of art work that speaks volumes about to their personal experiences and connections with the land and wildlife of their country.

The postcards from which this exhibition derides its name, are small artworks depicting various bush lands,  sea scapes and flowers particular to the land of these indigenous artists.

Hung collectively on one surface, the postcards appear so fresh on this wall. I was overwhelmed by a sense of hope and playfulness and general love of all things outdoors while taking in this display. It was particularly interesting to observe the wonderfully rounded skies featured in several of these artworks, lending them a nurturing, all encompassing quality. This is particularly evident in artist Tjiolan’s (Donna Williams’) series of seascapes and landscapes.

At first glance, Russell Nelly’s postcards appear to be a series of water colour paintings but on closer inspection they are in fact watered down acrylics. There is a sensitivity in his approach to these rugged bush scenes that creates the impression that a very endearing underlying gentleness exists in the land.

Margaret Eades’ wildflower postcards are a delight to behold. Exuberant, youthful energy abounds in Eade’s depiction of these flowers and it is evident the absolute joy this artist must experience when investigating and  considering the flowers that are her subject.

Errol Eades’  has also painted an abundance of wildflowers catalogued as number 30 in this exhibition. Alive with vivid colour not unlike a sea of coral, the wildflowers in this painting may be quietly overseen by mountains and trees, but they clearly take centre stage in the bountiful world Eades has created for our enjoyment.

Glenda Williams’  Moments in Time is a luscious sea scape.   The sky is a living entity, that unusually reflects the land below it in a fascinating manner.  Repeatedly this captured my gaze, gently moving me from earth to sky and back again. There is a great sense of calm in this painting and while there are moments of stillness, the scene is very much a living breathing entity.

I found myself equally drawn Glenda Williams’ Silent Moments.  I would suggest any person living in contemporary Australia could relate to this visionary artwork on some level. Colour is absent in this black and white painting and a central meandering path leads the eye up through the painting’s diverse garden of moments.  Globules of ideas and buds of memories blister and bubble,  transversing the canvas. Perhaps this work is a memory, maybe a landscape or just a wandering through the myriad of ideas that occur to us all when finally we happen upon a silent moment.

Culture, Land and Ochre by Edith Penny is painted upon a long elongated upright canvas. It beautifully captures the blackening smolders of smoke that result when burning wet brush. The smoky skies are red and hot, steeped in ash. The focus is not upon the flame, but rather the products of fire. Moving from bottom to top, in three scenes this painting considers a different treatment of the fire. At its highest point men with painted skin dance around embers.

Cheryl Narkle’s Old Ways is a happy painting to behold.  Feminine in its circular gathering of dots there is a real sense that four venerated women respectfully come together around a central purpose. There are different connections between each of the four outlaying circles that corner the canvas but a determined focus on the central idea and the feeling of cooperation that takes place between the outer circles is tangible.

Kelvin Penny’s Noongar Country was a source of fascination for me. I was instantly struck by the unusual treatment of the flora and fauna in this painting. Often in Australian bush scenes the two either compete or  one is given greater emphasis then the other dependent upon the artists particular interests. However,  Noongar Country is a painting where there is little differentiation between the importance of plant and animal life. Hierarchy is absent and both are honoured equally. A beautiful synergism emerges affirming the cycles of life. Noongar Country  gave me great pause to consider that we are all part of the same ecology under one great sky, none of us more important in the greater scheme of life than anything or anyone else.  A timely reminder of the respect every living entity must have for every other living entity  in the circle of life.

In another of Penny’s offerings, Early Days captures a particular time of day. The background mountains are majestic sculptures set upon an iridescent orange sky, a luminous sky that glows with warmth in a world that is perfect and quiet and at peace. Emus drift past grass trees, across a scene alive with the sounds of morning birds and whispering gum leaves. Early Days is very self assured in its idea.  There is no invasion by the contemporary world in this painting.

There are many more artworks on display then I have mentioned in this post, including several well executed prints and some very interesting photographs of rock. I was very excited by the enormous amount of talent present amongst this group of Noongar Artists and genuinely look forward to future exhibitions by Mungart Boodja Art Centre.

Photo Credit: Mungart Boodja Arts Centre

The comments made herein only represent my personal interpretation of and personal opinions about the artwork exhibited. They should not be mistaken for an expression of artistic statement by the artists mentioned. My intention in discussing artwork within this blog is to open a broader community conversation,  beyond the  limiting discussions of what is deemed “good” and “bad”, instead focusing the conversation upon how art is seen and interpreted, representing various points of view.

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4 thoughts on “Postcards from Noongar Country

  1. You amaze me Tash! After reading the review I want to SEE this exhibition. Is it going to be displayed elsewhere? x Carmel

    • Hi Carmel, I know they are planning on showing at the NT Aboriginal Arts Fair and that there is a gallery at the art space in Chesterpass Rd here in Albany. Otherwise you can contact Mungart Boodja Arts Centre and Louise will be able to inform you if they are touring the exhibition. The email is arts@mungartboodja.com
      Tash x

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