In the words of the Warakurna artists of Central Australia I was in a good and happy place, Walykumunu. For them that place was the arts centre in the Central Desert making art, for me it was the next best thing – looking at art.
A little while back I went to Turner from the Tate exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. This visit was with my daughter and it was a last-minute decision based more on opportunity than intent. Her recent visit to London and her emotional encounter with Turner also drove us there.
Last weekend my second visit was with my painting pal Jane and based more on intent and serendipity. The second look was different. The time-lapse between visits meant that I had considered works from a distance and returning provided the opportunity to draw on those remembered paint marks. This visit I swore I could smell oil paint in the room.
Upstairs Roy Lichtenstein’s prints in Pop Remix Exhibition told of the journey through Western art history in a totally unexpected way. His dots told stories of Abstract Expressionism, Still Lives and Nudes.
At the National Museum of Australia the exhibitionWarakurna, All the stories got into our minds and eyes used very different dots to Lichtenstein. It was a coming together of different skin groups keeping their culture strong through various art forms, weaving, painting, sculptures, making bush medicine.
Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to See My Father’s Ngurra (Country), 2011, Ken Shepherd, acrylic on canvas. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Wayne and Vicki McGeoch.
Ken Shepherd’s Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to see my Father’s Country (Ngurra) left me feeling like an explosion of cultures. It was Turner’s narrative, Pop Art’s patterning and Indigenous understanding of life and art.
The Tate London is more than 10,000 miles away to the west and more than 10,000 miles away to the east is New York. Australia seems to be smack bang in the middle and I imagine an art sign post in the Central Desert of Australia with New York pointing one direction and another pointing to London.
Underneath sitting crossed-legged in the red dirt Roy Lichtenstein and JMW Turner. Lichtenstein marking the sand out in dotted patterns and Turner sweeping large gestural marks through the dust. They both seem worlds away from the Warakurna Exhibition at the National Museum of Australia. All are Walykumunu, a good and happy place. Places that bring art together and keeps culture strong.