Three artworks have come into our household recently, all three of them beautiful and all three worth telling the circumstances of their arrival.
The first, a couple of weeks ago, is an intricate little sculpture by Sam Valenz, a bronze version of one of those plastic frames that toy solders come in, with the soldiers in various stages of removal from the frame, and various stages of mutilation. Here’s front and back:
This was a gift from the artist to the Art Student – he was her sculpture teacher, and the gift was to acknowledge the work she has done organising in a number of ways to defend and extend The Gallery School at Meadowbank TAFE.
Then, yesterday was the AGM of FAIM (Fine Arts Meadowbank, Inc.) which the Art Student got up and running over the last 12 months to promote art in the Ryde Municipality and in so doing raise the profile and the survival chances of The Gallery School. She resigned as president, and then was completely bowled over when Rew Hanks, her printing teacher and a printer of international renown (click for a review of his most recent exhibition), presented her with an artist’s proof of his ‘The Hunter and Collector’, a huge image of Joseph Banks, for which all the teachers had chipped in for the frame:
Well, she has been running herself ragged, but this was an amazingly generous gift.
Then today, a more conventional acquisition. We went to the Damien Minton Gallery this afternoon where there is an exhibition of Aboriginal art to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech. Gail Mabo, daughter of Eddie Mabo, spoke , and recited part of the speech:
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.
We brought the diseases. The alcohol.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice.
As the Damien Minton Gallery is just down the street from Redfern Park, where the speech was made, there was a tremendous sense of place and occasion. But before the speeches – which also included a marvellous ‘Welcome to No Country’ by artist Adam Hill, who sang a welcome in four different languages, four very different singing styles – the Art Student had already fallen in love with and bought one of the works in the exhibition, Beyula Napanangka’s ‘Kalinykalinypa Tjukurrpa‘. That link is to an image on Damien Minton’s webite, but it doesn’t capture the subtlety of the actual image, and nor does this from the Art Student’s phone, but you get some idea:
We bought this painting, partly to honour the occasion, partly because we’re both reading Crossing Cultures, the catalogue of an exhibition in the USA of Indigenous Australian art, the gift of Harvey Wagner and Will Owen to the Hood Museum in Dartmouth, New Hampshire – of which I will blog, at least briefly, soon. As we were driving to Redfern this afternoon we were talking about how one of the essays brought home to both of us something of what it means to say that Aboriginal culture has a special connection to country: our minds were well and truly prepared to be enthralled by that Napanangka’s painting.