Emerging Elders: honouring senior Indigenous artists at the National Gallery of Australia

. October 21, 2009

The National Gallery of Australia today opened its latest exhibition Emerging Elders: honouring senior Indigenous artists.

The exhibition explores the works of self-taught artists who all began painting or sculpting after a lifetime of other endeavours. A number of artists included in Emerging Elders are also featured in the first Australian Indigenous Art Triennial: Culture Warriors that opened in Washington DC last month. Artists featured in both exhibitions include Gulumbu Yunupingu, Maringka Baker and Jimmy Baker.

Harry Tjutjuna
Harry Tjutjuna, Amata Community, South Australia, Wangka Tjukurpa (Spiderman), 2007. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2008 © Harry Tjutjuna.

“We are honoured to showcase some of the many diverse but complementary Indigenous works from the national collection. Over the last decade the artists featured in Emerging Elders have created and consistently shown their work throughout Australia. Many of these works have had a significant impact on the artists’ own communities as well as a huge cultural and aesthetic impact on the arts nationally and internationally,” said Franchesca Cubillo, Senior Curator Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia.

“This exhibition paves the way for showcasing our Indigenous works in the 12 new Indigenous galleries opening in winter next year,” said Ms Cubillo.

Beginning a career in painting or sculpture later in life is neither new nor uncommon for Australian Indigenous artists. Quite the contrary is true: it is practically the norm for many Australian Indigenous artists living in remote or regional areas. Although considered emerging artists, years of personal experience and cultural knowledge inform their work. Their ability to visualise significant stories gives rise to some of Australia’s most dynamic and stunning contemporary works of art.

“Emerging Elders was inspired by this year’s National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) theme of ‘Honouring our Elders, nurturing our youth’. The works in Emerging Elders are bold and contrasting and they illuminate the individual artists’ culture and individuality,” said Tina Baum, exhibition curator.

“Elders perform a vital and honoured role in Indigenous society. They are admired and respected as keepers and enforcers of law, stories and culture and guide communities today as they have done for generations,” said Ms Baum.

The Gallery recognises the important role Indigenous Elders play in our society and their valuable contribution to the arts. Art is intertwined with the economic, social, political and spiritual aspects of Indigenous life, and allows the ongoing transferral, maintenance and reinforcement of cultural knowledge.

The recent explosion of diverse styles, designs and various depictions of country and ancestral stories have further enriched non-Indigenous peoples understanding of and exposure to Indigenous culture. These important works of art will no doubt engage audiences on many different levels.

Category: Fine Art News

Comments are closed.