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icons of the desert
thru 31 January
Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (c. 1926-1998) Pintupi.
Big Cave Dreaming with Ceremonial Object, 1972
The Embassy of Australia gallery presents icons of the desert - an exhibition of early Indigenous Australian paintings from Papunya, from the private collection of John and Barbara Wilkerson. This exhibition took over ten years of development in close consultation with the aboriginal community and descendants of the artists.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are respectfully advised that names of deceased persons and images of their work appear in this exhibition and that this may cause distress.
The exhibition includes an exquisite set of small paintings regarded by many as the “jewels” of the painting movement of the early seventies. Jewels is an appropriate description since so much of this work is small in scale, involving the “fine detail” that is characteristic of the early Papunya Tula style. 1
The exhibition curator Roger Benjamin, in his discussion on the fetish for Papunya boards said “beauty has many forms, but it is not every day that a new kind of beauty is born to the world. Such is the achievement of the painters of Papunya from Central Australia. Theirs was a strange beauty, unlike anything seen before by the white people who were among its first admirers. On small rectangles of cheap brown masonite, they wove intricate traceries of waving lines, circles and dots. Their painted forms were not haphazard; instead, they had the inestimable advantage of drawing on millennia of culture and tradition.”2
The icons of the desert exhibition and hardcover publication were organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, with the generous support of the Actus Foundation, New York. The exhibition was curated by Professor Roger Benjamin, Director, The Power Institute, University of Sydney, and first appeared at the Johnson Museum January 10–April 5, 2009.
Education and Discussion
During the exhibition there will be supplementary programs including several screenings of the film Mr Patterns - the story of Geoff Bardon, a teacher who encouraged the Papunya community to paint their traditional designs using western materials. A Director’s talk by Catriona McKenzie will follow the film screening on 5 November. Additional group screenings of Mr Patterns will be made available throughout the exhibition.
A major panel discussion on the cultural heritage act (sponsored by Barbara and John Wilkerson) will be held at the Embassy on 3 December, 2013.
Enquiries: email Cultural.RelationsUS@dfat.gov.au