Indigenous art is becoming increasingly recognised in the wider art community, as the unique artistic and cultural qualities of both traditional and contemporary artworks are celebrated. The Queensland Art Gallery’s (QAG) diverse collection of extraordinary Aboriginal fibre art was recently highlighted for the first time in a major exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), South Bank.
Like many contemporary artists today, Indigenous artists are continuing to explore the themes and concerns of their craft with new methods and materials.
QAG/GoMA curator of Indigenous Fibre Art, Diane Moon, says “Many of the pieces are made from materials sourced from the natural environment, however, in others, synthetic and recycled materials have been reconfigured and reinterpreted.’’
She describes the work of Lorraine Connelly-Northey, which uses “carrying bags, baskets and containers using (often rusted and distorted) scrap metal and detritus from rubbish dumps which she has folded and bound with wire to resemble traditional vessel forms.”
QAG director Tony Ellwood says the works in ‘Floating Life: Contemporary Aboriginal Fibre Art’ demonstrated the inventiveness of established and emerging indigenous artists from every state and territory, including well-known artists, Gulumbu Yunupingu, Shirley MacNamara, Yvonne Koomatrie, Lena Yarinkura, Regina Wilson and Jonathan Jones.
The works were selected for their diversity of fibre art-making techniques and approaches, such as “nets and traps, woven mats, conical baskets, spirit figures and dance objects… body adornment, painting and highly coloured balmarra [thread-cross dance frames].”
Contemporary Indigenous works are a complex product of traditional culture and contemporary expression, exploring relationships between place, person and product. Family groups in Kowanyama, QLD, for example, continue to maintain ownership of specific designs and styles with women celebrating the inventive use of materials and techniques that highlight the individuality of their designs by using a mixture of knotting techniques, natural materials and brightly coloured polypropylene rope strands.
Exhibitions such as ‘Floating Life’ are multi-layered collections of forms, textures and images highlighting Aboriginal culture and reflecting what is widely considered to be a significant contemporary Australian art movement.
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