Artist’s Chronicle film features the much-anticipated exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal art from the Kimberley at the Art Gallery of WA as part of this years Perth Festival.
Nine-hundred people packed the Art Gallery of WA in one of its largest openings to date to celebrate the epic six-year journey of its Indigenous art project Desert River Sea, co-curated by Carly Lane and Emilia Galatis. AGWA flew 60 people from Kimberley art centres, as well as independent artists, to Perth for the opening of the Perth Festival show. Artist Mervyn Street, who works from Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Fitzroy Crossing said it felt as if the Kimberley had come to Perth. “It’s the first time I’ve been involved the Art Gallery of WA, so it’s very exciting. It has a lot of meaning for all the artists involved.”
Independent artist Garry Sibosado from Lombadina echoed the excitement. “The whole Kimberley is here. I know some of the artists already, but I’ve been meeting new ones I haven’t met before, so it’s been fantastic.” Together with brother Darrell, the two presented stunning works in carved pearl shell and steel. “I’ve worked with pearl shells for many years, but not on this large scale,” he said. “There’s ancient symbols carved into the work, handed down from generation to generation.” Some of these same symbols appear in brother Darrell’s work in corten steel, a new medium in his practice. “The project has encouraged us to try something new,” said Darrell. “It’s something I had been thinking about for a while in relation to these designs. I thought they’d work really well on a larger scale.”
The project has unified art centres and independent artists across the Kimberley through an extensive website portal, and trained arts workers to enable curatorial control to stay in local hands. Moreover, it has encouraged artists to stretch their practice and explore mediums such as animation, film, and unusually, paintings on shaved leather hides.
AGWA Director Stefano Carboni said the project started with an idea to connect in a more constructive ways with art centres. “Given the history of creativity in the Kimberley, we decided the region would be our first focus in creating a direct line between the gallery and various art centres. An injection of $1.8m from Rio Tinto funded the ambitious project, and it’s been incredibly successful from our point of view.”
Carboni said there had always been an exhibition in mind, not as a conclusion to the project, but rather as a celebration. “We thought we would engage the communities in a better way if we let them come up with ideas for new works. In the back of our minds, and probably in the minds of many people on staff, was ‘we’re going to have a wonderful new painting show,’ but when they came came back and said we’re going to do installation work, pearl shell carving, textiles and video, we thought ‘what could be better than this?’”
“It’s possibly the beginning of a new approach to art making at the art centres, and we hope to provide that spark that creates new pathways. So at this point it’s a celebration rather than the end of the project.”
In a collaboration between Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal Media, Audio Chemistry in Melbourne and the Art Gallery of WA, the Artist’s Chronicle has produced a trailer and short film for the exhibition featuring participating artists, stunning drone shots of the Kimberley landscape, and music by Kimberley favourites, the Pigram Brothers. The short film is narrated by nationally recognised Indigenous visual and performing artist Barry McGuire. The film will screen in the gallery concourse and the Perth Cultural Centre screen outside PICA, as well as on the AGWA and Artist’s Chronicle websites. Artist’s Chronicle publisher and filmmaker Lyn Di Ciero said the film provides viewers with an insight into the project and acts as a reminder of the backdrop of the vast and outstanding Kimberley landscape where artists create. “We hope the film encourages many visitors to explore Desert River Sea at the Art Gallery of WA, and immerse in new and exciting developments in Aboriginal art, alongside works from AGWA and art centre collections.”
See the trailer and 5 minute film here: