Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek AO
New Acquisitions in Context showcases recent acquisitions alongside selected works from the existing MCA and JW Power Collections. It includes work by artists James Angus, Hany Armanious, John Barbour, Sophie Coombs, Juan Davila, Hayden Fowler, among the others. The Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek AO's exhibition explores the stories and places depicted in artist's work, providing visitors with a greater understanding and respect for the Nadjamerrek's unique traditions and origins.
Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO
10 December 2010 - 20 March 2011
This summer the Museum of Contemporary Art presents Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO. Running from 10 December 2010 until 20 March 2011, this solo-exhibition explores the practice and legacy of one of the Northern Territory’s most distinguished and respected Aboriginal leaders and one of Australia’s most significa nt artists.
Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO passed away in October 2009 aged 83 on his country at the remote west Arnhem Land Outstation of Kabulwarnamyo. This artist and renowned visionary was one of only two Aboriginal Territorians to have been awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the arts and Indigenous land management. He was the last of his clan’s rock artists and considered a living National Treasure prior to his passing. Nadjamerrek’s knowledge of his lands, the stories and their translation to the rocky environs of the Western Arnhem Land plateau was unsurpassed. Curated by Keith Munro, this major survey exhibition showcases the artist’s unique paintings on bark and paper, which reflect the images found on cave walls and inside bark shelters. It provides an opportunity to connect with the stories and places depicted so strongly in Nadjamerrek’s work, as well as a greater understanding and respect for the artist’s traditions and culture.
Nadjamerrek was born in the Mann River region of Western Arnhem Land around 1926. The nickname ‘Lofty’ was given to him at a young age due to his imposing height. As a child, he created his first painting on rock walls under the watchful eye of family members. His earliest rock art images are at Karrmadjabdi, a shelter in his Mok clan estate on the Liverpool River, where he painted a number of fish species, a yam, rock possum and representations of Namorrddo spirit beings by shaping bees wax and pressing them into the rock. In 1969, under the encouragement of missionary Peter Carroll, Nadjamerrek began to paint commercially. He always used natural ochres, be it on rock art surfaces, paper and bark.
As a prominent elder, Nadjamerrek resided over the clan estates with important rock art sites, representing some of the oldest forms of human expression. As a result, the Kabulwarnamyo outstation became a kind of remote university campus: Nadjamerrek and his family received a constant stream of dry-season visitors: conservation scientists, anthropologists, writers, photographers, biologists, botanists, fire ecologists, zoologists, entomologists, linguists, anthropologists, historians, filmmakers, musicologists and museum curators.
But, as Nicholas Rothwell explains in the publication to accompany the exhibition, “there is a point where you cannot know the codings and the meanings enshrined in an unfamiliar language and a distant culture. This gives a crucial importance to art: the art in this book and in the exhibition.” “Nadjamerrek realised that a beautifully depicted Ngalyod, or rainbow serpent, shown with lilies growing from its back, conveyed more than a hundred research texts written by well-meaning outsiders about the emotions and ideas that gave his world life. Hence the detail with which he recorded the internal organs of the birds and wallaroos he painted in his familiar X-ray style; hence the precision of the ceremonial schemas he set down, and the intense air of life and movement in the discussion paintings of his later years. Here, more than anywhere else, his way of seeing and thinking could be traced: he was educating his western viewers with each new brushstroke,” writes Rothwell. The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, featuring commissioned texts on the work of Bardayal Nadjamerrek in the contexts of Australian art, Aboriginal art and culture and the bark painting movement.
EXHIBITION OUTREACH PROGRAMS
Thanks to the support of major partner Rio Tinto and its energy subsidiary ERA, Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO is extending outside the MCA to incorporate community events and professional development workshops in the Alligator River area of West Arnhem Land. A three-day Djurali Youth Art Careers Workshop will be held in early 2011. The workshop will be run by MCA curators and educators. Designed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Year 9 to year 12, the workshop will help them to better understand educational opportunities available at a tertiary level in the arts.
As part of the exhibition, the MCA is also providing professional development opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from the Alligator River to visit the MCA in Sydney. The MCA’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Keith Munro, will work with the Injalak Arts Centre in Gunbalanya, West Arnhem Land, to select two representatives whom they believe would benefit most from hands-on training. The participants will then visit the MCA in early 2011 for an intensive five day placement at the Museum. The students will nominate the field of museum practice in which they would like to receive specialised training, such as exhibition services, registration and conservation, education and public programs or marketing and sponsorship. This program will help the arts centre’s staff to develop their skills and knowledge in curatorial and museum practices, gaining invaluable experience that they can use to benefit their own centre in Gunbalanya.
The Museum of Contemporary Art initiated this major exhibition with the artist, his family and Injalak Arts and Crafts. Sadly, during the development of the project, the artist passed away. Following discussions with his immediate family, permission has been given for his proper name to be used only within the context of the MCA exhibition and publication Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO. The MCA, the artist’s family and Injalak Arts and Crafts see the exhibition as an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of this great Australian as well as his art and life. In observing and respecting cultural protocol in all contexts other than the MCA exhibition and publication the family requests that, at this time, the artist’s ‘sorry name’ or subsection and clan name Wamud Namok be used.
Panel Discussion: Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO
Friday 10 December, 2.00 – 3.00pm
Panellists will include Keith Munro, a member of the Nadjamerrek family and personal and professional peers who will contribute to creating a greater awareness of Bardayal Nadjamerrek’s life and art.
New Acquisitions in Context
9 December 2010 - 19 June 2011
The Museum of Contemporary Art this summer presents a diverse selection of works by Australian and international artists recently acquired for the MCA’s Collection. MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context runs from 10 December 2010 until 29 May 2011 and presents a cross-section of current art practices and styles by established and emerging artists to provide a new perspective on the MCA Collection.
In this exhibition, new acquisitions are presented alongside existing works from the MCA and JW Power Collections. Collecting is a vital part of the MCA’s activities and is a crucial part of its mission to support Australian artists and preserve their work for future generations. The MCA is the only museum in Australia dedicated to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art. Since the first New Acquisitions in Context exhibition in 2005, the MCA has presented an exhibition of its new acquisitions annually. This dynamic exhibition series provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a diverse selection of contemporary Australian and international art, as well as an insight into how the MCA Collection is developed.
Spanning a range of media from sculpture and painting to installation and video, New Acquisitions in Context includes over 30 artworks by 23 artists. Highlights include Sangeeta Sandrasegar’s Its feet were tied, with a silken thread of my own hands weaving (2010), Arlo Mountford’s The Folly (2008-09) and Ken Thaiday’s Black Hammerhead Shark Eastern Island Dari Warrior Headdress (2009). Significant works from the 1980s such as Juan Davila’s Fable of Australian painting (1982-83) and Imants Tillers’ White Aborigines (1983) are also on display. In addition, Simryn Gill’s series Carbon Copy (1998), typewritten works on paper documenting speeches at opposite ends of the political spectrum, Hayden Fowler’s mesmerising videos Goat Odyssey and White Australia (both 2006) and Laith McGregor’s meticulously drawn portrait using pencil and his signature medium ball-point pen on paper, The European (2009) will also be exhibited.
Also featured are several works by Hany Armanious who has been selected to represent Australia at the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2011. The prolific Sydney-based artist best known for his innovative sculptural work, will be the sole artist exhibiting at the Australian Pavilion in the Giardini which opens in June 2011.
A number of broad ranging concerns emerge throughout New Acquisitions in Context. Issues of time and obsolescence are explored by a number of artists, in addition to investigations of politics, art history, appropriation and the obsessive nature of art practice. Several light, kinetic and moving image works are featured, reflecting important areas of strength within the MCA Collection, while other artists investigate expanded notions of drawing and engage with everyday materials. The MCA holds a significant collection which totals more than 5,000 works brought together since the late 1960s through the JW Power Bequest and, since the creation in 1989 of the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay, the MCA Collection. This collection forms one of the core functions of the museum’s activities, playing a major role in the MCA’s innovative exhibitions, touring projects, education and outreach programs and high-quality publications.
Artists featured in the exhibition include: James Angus, Hany Armanious, John Barbour, Sophie Coombs, Juan Davila, Hayden Fowler, Simryn Gill, Matthew Griffin, Mary Gubriawuy, Patrick Hartigan, Matthew Jones, Peter Kennedy, Laith McGregor, James Morrison, Arlo Mountford, Dorota Mytych, Robert Rauschenberg, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Tim Silver, Ken Thaiday, Imants Tillers, Günter Weseler and Simon Yates.
Image: Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO Kangaroo and yam increase c.1970 ochres on bark Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Arnott’s Biscuits Ltd, 1993 Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney © Estate Wamud Namok
For images and interview requests, contact MCA Public Relations Manager, Gabrielle Wilson on +61 2 9245 2434 or +61 (0) 429 572 869. Alternatively, email email@example.com.
Opening 10 December 2010
Museum of Contemporary Art
West Circular Quay, Sidney
Open 10am - 5pm Daily
(closed Christmas Day)
Admission is Free