Art / The 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial, “Ceremony”, National Gallery of Australia, until July 31. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.
CEREMONY is central to the creative practice of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. It links country, culture, and community. The works in this exhibition powerfully create an important platform for art and ideas.
Led by the First Nations curator, Hetti Perkins, she says: “The 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial ‘Ceremony’, is testament that our culture has survived, not only over the many thousands of years but, particularly, the last couple of hundred years, because of its capacity for innovation and adaptability.”
The exhibition will opened publicly with a ceremonial act by Paul Girrawah House, under the guidance of his mother, elder and traditional custodian Matilda House. Several trees will be scarred in the National Gallery Sculpture Garden to remain as a permanent installation.
At the media showing, Nick Mitzevich, the gallery director, introduced Paul Girrawah House and his mother, Aunty Matilda. Their welcome was about all of us coming together to respect each other in the spirit of peace. Then, a minute’s silence to mark that respect.
The scope of this exhibition is vast; 38 artists from across Australia have come together to create a stunning portrayal of how the contemporary world blends, interacts and at times, is opposite to traditional ways. But it also says, hey, if we all work together and treat each other fairly, we can be a better country.
The works cover almost every artistic medium and process.
There are extra-large paintings, a huge semicircular video installation, a LED neon wall hanging based on ceremonial processes, shields, clubs, boomerangs, Daguerreotype photos that seem to disappear into themselves, totem poles, a work that is painting itself via electromechanical components, a startling black and white video, an amazing bone library and much more.
These are all strong symbols of people, place and belonging. This is an enormous collection spread across the gallery, into the sculpture garden and even floating on Lake Burley Griffin. It speaks many visual languages.
It’s ancient and modern. It’s harsh and beautiful. But overall, the visual language is strong, it pulls a viewer in. It asks and reveals. It demands and says, “we are here, respect us”. There are many stories in this exhibition, and all need to be seen and heard.
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