The show that’s busting myths about Kimberley Aboriginal art

Shirley Purdie Goorralg Goorralg Storm Bird and Willy Wagtail

The Art Gallery of Western Australia is now showcasing Desert, River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley, an exhibition of Aboriginal artwork from north-west WA.

Part of the Perth Festival, the exhibition is the culmination of a six-year research project between the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Indigenous artists and art centres in the Kimberley.

Desert, River, Sea features 150 new and old artworks, varying from drawings, photography, ochre art, video, cowhide art and glasswork. The exhibition’s also structured around a group of eight commissions, presenting as eight installations that represent the various journeys toward individual and cultural expression through art.

WA Minister for Culture and the Arts, David Templeman, said the program has been a progressive visual arts initiative in the Kimberley for the last six years.

“Now, these magnificent works are travelling to Perth for the wider WA community and international festival visitors to enjoy through an immersive experience on an impressive scale,”Mr Templeman said.

Desert River Sea displays a synthesis between art, people and place. Co-curator and AWGA project manager, Emilia Galatis, said exhibition makes Kimberley art accessible to all people.

“They’ll be surprised about the diversity, and how experimental the different works are. We talk about mythbusting, about what Aboriginal art in the Kimberley is, what Kimberley art is and our show shows the range.”

Curator of Indigenous Australia and First Nations Art at AGWA, Carly Lane, hopes that Desert River Sea will enable more robust opportunities for remote artists to participate in national conversations.

“You come into this gallery space and you won’t see anything you would expect to see. At a time when we are rapidly changing the way we engage with Indigenous art, this show shows the diversity among just one region. We hope people leave with a greater understanding of the possibilities of remote community art making.

“Where it ends up, the sort of relationships institutions could and should be having with those remote communities and how to enable these stories to be national,” Ms Lane said.

The AGWA has also partnered with the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of Western Australia (AACHWA) to provide internships to six Aboriginal art workers who will gain experience in organising and creating exhibitions.

Artists and art centres also represented in the Desert River Sea exhibition include: Darrell & Garry Sibosado (Lombadina); Daniel Walbidi (Bidyadanga); Kira Kiro Art Centre (Kalumburu) and artist collectives from Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency (Fitzroy Crossing); Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre (Mowanjum); Waringarri Aboriginal Arts (Kununurra); Warlayirti Artists (Balgo); and Warmun Art Centre (Warmun).

Desert, River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley will open on the Saturday the 9th of February, and the gallery will host a free event from 10am-5pm where many of the Kimberley artists will have the opportunity to meet and talk about their artwork.

By Rachael Knowles

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