Saturday, November 23, 2013

Contemporary Aboriginal Prints
Fine-Art Prints on Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Aboriginal art spans both traditional and contemporary concepts – contemporary in terms of the here and now. For some non-indigenous Australians, contemporary aboriginal art poses a dilemma since it breaks their neat stereotypical image of what constitutes aboriginality.

Aboriginal art is in an on-going process of evolution that was accelerated with the colonization of the lands of the First Peoples. Even traditional motifs that were blazed on the bark of their gunyahs (humpies) in the first decades of colonization saw the incorporation of such weapons as rifles in order to tell the story of a non-traditional circumstance with dour consequences for the indigenous peoples. Once aboriginal artists reacted to the “present”, their art was propelled on an evolutionary trajectory that remains unabated to this day.

Many urban aboriginal artists are self-taught, but most have now received a tertiary art school education and so have emerged with a firm knowledge about the history of Western Art and more importantly, they have been taught technical and conceptual skills to better explore their own aboriginal context, within a modern pluralistic society. This is an important transformation since it focuses on the re-awaking of their spiritual self. Hence, although they maybe inspired by rock art, their re-interpretation of it is in itself a journey of self-discovery within a modern milieu of plurality.

The images shown below were procured from a wonderful tome by Jennifer Isaacs – Aboriginality Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings and Prints (University Of Queensland Press, St. Lucia) [1] - a must buy for your library.

Printmaking - A Most Democratic Process
Academically it has been argued that in the case of contemporary aboriginal art printmaking is the most powerful transmission and transforming force with respect to maintaining the conditions for an evolving and living Australian indigenous culture [2]. Moreover, the following points highlight the importance of printmaking in conceptual development of modern art in general and in contemporary aboriginal art in particular:
(i) Printmaking on paper is more democratic than Raika Wara (long cloth), painting on canvas, sculpture and pottery (re: Hermannsburg potters) since it requires little technical skills compared with the other art media/practices.
(ii) There is a breadth and depth of teaching resources with respect to printmaking which is readily available and moreover, reaches into urban and more importantly, remote communities. This encompasses isolated teachers, programmed workshops and education institutions at all tertiary levels imparting skills and knowledge in printmaking since it can be done on paper as well as on cloth (see Tiwi). This is not the case for sculpture, ceramics, batik long cloth and painting.
(iii) The equipment and pigments used for printmaking on paper are cheap and readily available (which is not the case in pottery where kilns need to be built).
(iv) Printmaking on paper spans political commentary to fine-art traditions. The former was a motivating force for the aboriginal community to enter into this art practice in order to activate for greater civil rights. However, by 2000 the blogsphere effectively supplanted it and so became the medium of choice for political activism. This was not necessarily the case with respect to canvas paintings and pottery etc.
(v) Printmaking on paper is archival if non-acidic paper is used. The paper has a long life - unlike long-cloth. Hence it is more easily collectable by galleries, libraries, museums and private collectors, since it does not need unusual maintenance and conservation procedures.
(vi) Printmaking on paper is easily replicated and so large edition series can be generated, which makes it less expensive and so more readily accessible to the public at large.
(vii) Printmaking on paper can be easily publicized by up-loading images on the internet, which is more difficult to do with long-cloth (since the handle of the cloth cannot be felt) and with three-dimensional objects.
(viii) Australians do not have a tradition of acknowledging that long-cloth is an art form, where fine-art prints on paper have already been acknowledged as a legitimate art form.
(ix) Printmaking on paper readily spans traditional or ethnographic to contemporary themes, thereby being both a powerful transmission as well as a transforming force with respect to maintaining conditions for an evolving living indigenous culture.
(x) Printmaking on paper is an activity that can involve a single person (artist printmaker) or a group of people (designers and printer makers), the latter being more in line with the tradition of social activity, which is not necessarily the case with canvas painting since the emphasis of modern practice (21st Century) largely rests with the individual.
(xi) Printmaking on paper readily accommodates delineation of activity by gender as well as embracing collaborations between genders – a very important criteria for remote and urban indigenous Australians.
(xii) Printmaking on paper is easily transportable which is an important criterion for artwork generated in isolated and remote communities. It is not therefore a city-centric art form.
It is for these reasons that contemporary Aboriginal prints will be explored in this post.

Contemporary Aboriginal Prints on Paper

Banduk Marika
Banduk Marika belongs to the Riratjingu clan of northeast Arnhem land. She was learning the stories and symbolic patterns that are now her own art of limited edition prints. She has also developed a range of silk designs on fabrics exploring themes connected to the elements – earth and water. Many of these are abstract, representing rippled lines or bubbles on water. Her works remain a continued expression of tradition, religion and land.

Artist: Banduk Marika - Muka Milnymirri (Three Snakes) (1987).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 56 x 38 cm (paper size).

Artist: Banduk Marika - Yelangbara (1987).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 56 x 38 cm (paper size).

Artist: Banduk Marika - Marrma Gayntjurr (1987).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 43 x 34 cm (paper size).

Raymond Meeks
Raymond Meeks paints in acrylic, oil and lacquered inks, but frequently draws and prints. Raymond was born in Sydney and returned with his mother to Cairns as a baby. His recent black and white drawings possess a freedom and simplicity that are reminiscent of the dreamlike reveries of Chagall. He describes his memories as fogged and dreamlike, which in traditional aboriginal terms the word “Dreaming” is associated with a state in which they communicate with the great Creation Ancestors.

Artist: Raymond Meeks - Argoonie Doowie (1988).
Technique: Silkscreen on paper.
Size: 56 x 76 cm (paper size).

Artist: Raymond Meeks - Healing Place (1988).
Technique: Silkscreen on paper.
Size: 76 x 56.5 cm (paper size).

Heather Walker
Heather Walker was brought up and educated in Rockhampton, Queensland. Much of her imagery derives from Cape York rock art. Much of her art depicts human figures and spirits as well as plants and animals. She is cataloguing extinct animals, changes in plants and human preoccupation both temporal and spiritual over the centuries. However, her art often explores many other themes and departs, not only in medium and function, but also in imagery from the purely traditional.

Artist: Heather Walker - Watching (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 25 x 25 cm (paper size).

Artist: Heather Walker - Fruit Bat Gallery (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 37.5 x 50 cm (paper size).

Artist: Heather Walker - The Quinkins (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 32.5 x 30.5 cm (paper size).

Jenuarrie (Judith Warrie)
Judith Warrie was born in Rockhampton in Central Queensland. Ceramics, Batik and printmaking are equally important aspects of Jenuarrie’s work. Her interaction with the New Zealand Maori and South Pacific Islanders reinforced her commitment to develop her contemporary aboriginal themes and issues. Her prints draw their inspiration from traditional aboriginal rock art, in particular from the Laura caves of Cape York, as well as the engravings on Staley Island in Far North Queensland.

Artist: Jenuarrie - Totemic Ancestors (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 42.5 x 42.5 cm (paper size).

Artist: Jenuarrie - Mythical Dancers (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 42 x 57.8 cm (paper size).

Artist: Jenuarrie - Sorcerers Ritual (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 16.5 x 18.3 cm (paper size).

Artist: Jenuarrie - Spirit Beings (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 47.5 x 30 cm (paper size).

Pooaraar (Bevan Hayward)
Pooaraar was born in Gnowangerup, a small town in Western Australia about 350 kilometers south of Perth. Pooaraar is an artist who can draw from numerous experiences to express the landscape in which he has travelled so widely. His black-and-white linocuts memorize you, with their vibrating pattern and grids. Most of the artists work focuses on the natural fauna as well as stingrays, barramundi, brolgas, goannas and turkeys.

Artist: Pooaraar - Turtle and Lizard (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 39.2 x 31.7 cm (paper size).

Artist: Pooaraar - Spirit of the Australian Bush (1988).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 48.2 x 29.8 cm (paper size).

Ellen Jose
Ellen Jose was born in Cairns, North Queensland. Her work reflects her ancestry as well as an interest in fusing Asian and European techniques and media with Torres Straight Island and Aboriginal patterning, techniques and symbols. She has adapted this to create her own style. Her fusion is a testimony that all people can maintain their own distinct and separate cultures, while living together in understanding and in harmony.

Ellen Jose – Sea Scape (1987).
Technique: Linocut on rice paper.
Size: 15 x 15 cm (paper size).

Artist: Ellen Jose – The Boulders II (1988).
Technique: Linocut on rice paper.
Size: 15 x 15 cm (paper size).

Euphemia Bostock
Euphemia Bostock was born at Tweed Heads on the far north coast of NSW. Her art is mainly focussed on fabric, printmaking and sculpture. She prefers natural materials and loves the texture and surface possibilities of hand made paper. Euphemia's linocuts are made on rice paper, which yields a sympathetic and responsive surface to her technique of using an ink wash on the background behind the black print. She is purposely moving in different directions with unique graphic urban aboriginal images.

Artist: Euphemia Bostock – Water Hole (1985).
Technique: Linocut on paper.
Size: 30 x 28 cm (paper size).

Euphemia Bostock – Spirit Man (1985).
Technique: Silkscreen on paper.
Size: 30 x 32 cm (paper size).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You are absolutely right dear. Modern art is very popular among artists these days. Even I am a newbie artist but still I like Aboriginal Art a lot. Please do share your views on it.