By Peter Maddern
Allied to Namatjira, the show (just concluded), is Namatjira, the exhibition, on now at the Artspace until 27th May.
The Hermannsburg School that promoted the use of water colours of outback scenes by indigenous painters, of which Albert Namatjira is the most famous exponent but with which the Namatjira name remains actively synonymous is really the focus and then particularly its current exponents. To be sure, a retrospective of either Albert’s work or the best of those who have come before over the past 50 years this is not.
Still, within the basic parameters of the style – white gums in the foreground, purple / blue distant ranges and accentuated red rocks in the landscape between them – there is much individual nuance and vision to be appreciated in this adaptation of the white man’s way to depict the land but as seen through indigenous eyes.
Douglas Kwarlple Abbott has five works of which his three of the Finke River are the most stunning with brilliant reds used for the soil offset by grey green saltbush or scrubby mulga growing throughout the dry creek bed. Mervyn Rubuntja’s two works also standout along with Peter Tjutatja Taylor’s Mt Sonder.
What works of Albert there are (and it is a pity that a decent retrospective of his works could not have been mustered for the occasion) are in the ‘Museum’ section and include a lovely water colour of the Hermannsburg mission itself and seven wooden pieces. But to be honest, these alone hardly warrant the effort to attend.
Also, scattered throughout the walls are portraits done by the resident artists on stage with the show. Local doyen portraitist, Robert Hannaford has three, as does Michael Peck and Evert Ploeg four, all bar one of all of these is of Trevor Jamieson, the lead actor in Namatjira, the show.
While understanding that their presence is a means to drive sales and thus returns for the show and exhibition promoter Big hART’s work near Alice Springs, they do tend to make for a bit of hodge podge of an exhibition, these styles being so different to the Namatjira style that it is meant to be promoting.
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