Darwin Blog


24th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award
Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 1:29 am
Filed under: Observations

darnley-island.jpg

Recently I went and viewed the 24th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

I know what I like and don’t like when it comes to Aboriginal art and I think this exhibition confirmed it for me.  I don’t think the overall exhibition was as strong as it had been in previous years and it is so easy to identify the winner, without having to look at the catalogue.

The winner was Dennis Nona for Ubirikubiri, a bronze cast of a crocodile and man on its back.  The work is exquisite and is based on a legend that took place on the Western Coast of Papua New Guinea.  Nona is from the Torres Strait region and the influences of PNG art is evident in the piece.  In viewing the whole exhibition, it is so clear to see why this piece is the outright winner.

Another outright favourite for me in the exhibition was the Alick Tipoti piece, Gubau Aimai Mabaigal – linocut on paper.  The intricacies of this piece is amazing.  Again, Tipoti is from the Torres Strait region and this piece is a show stopper, which is probably why it won the Telstra Work on Paper Award this year.

There are so many elements to this piece.  Gubau Aimai Mabaigal means wind makers in the Maluigal Zenadh Kes language.  Illustrated are the Zugubai who create and control the four winds that clear the airways of the islands.  This print shows the yearly seasonal calendar of the Maluilgal people.

My other favourite in the exhibition was the collection of five pieces by the Darnley Island Art Gang, Darnley Island Story of the Coming of the Light, Linocut on paper (pictured).  The four pieces remind me of the influence of the missionaries especially during the time I lived in Papua New Guinea and more recently with visits to Daly River and the Tiwi Islands.  The five pieces for me had a great spiritual presence and this alone was not because of the presence of a cross in each of the pieces.

What I found lacking in the exhibition was minimal ceramic work and no glass.  This was disappointing as Aboriginal artists do amazing works in both these mediums.  What I also missed were the brightly coloured pieces from central Australia.  I am not a traditionalist when it comes to Aboriginal art – I am not fond of the ochres and browns that are often featured.

The quirky piece for me was Darwin Boy by Gary Lee.   Photographed in Alfred’s, at the knife corner, Gary photographs a local Darwin Aboriginal boy from a prominent Darwin family in bright blue speedos, showing off a well maintained and groomed body.  I like the fact the Gary always challenges the norms with his art and entering a digital image, which to some may be confronting brings another element to what could be considered a relatively safe and conservative art award.

To view entrants and winners go to:  http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/museums/exhibitions/natsiaa/index.html

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