Published: 13 July 2012
An exhibition of desert painting opens at UQ
The Art Gallery of South Australia's travelling exhibition Desert Country offers an oasis of colour when it opens at The University of Queensland Art Museum on 4 August 2012.
Director Dr Campbell Gray said it was an honour for the University to host “such a magnificent exhibition of desert painting”.
“The exhibition features 57 works by 56 Aboriginal artists, and reveals the development of Australia's internationally acclaimed desert painting movement,” he said.
“Desert Country provides a rare opportunity not only to celebrate the diversity of desert art, but also to study the relationships between Aboriginal artists working in the desert regions of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.”
Artworks in Desert Country range from the early paintings on board of the Papunya Tula artists, and the latest works to emerge from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in far northwest South Australia.
Among the highlights is the profoundly powerful collaborative work by Pitjantjatjara artists Kunmanara Queama and Hilda Moodoo, Destruction I, which depicts the mushroom cloud of the Maralinga atomic tests of the 1950s that forced them to evacuate their lands.
Art Gallery of South Australia Director Mr Nick Mitzevich said: “Without a doubt, desert painting is Australia's single most significant contribution to the art world and it deserves to be celebrated.
“I am very proud that the Art Gallery of South Australia is continuing to lead the way in the promotion of Aboriginal art, by being the first to document in an exhibition the rise of the desert art movement.”
Ms Nici Cumpston, the exhibition's curator, hopes that beyond its artistic goals, the exhibition will also be a step forward to improved race relations with the wider Australian community.
“Desert Country allows us into an ancient existence, and to witness history through the contemporary art of the oldest living culture in the world.
“Taking the time to learn the stories behind the paintings is one of the ways that enables us all to understand this culture and to enhance our respect for it,” she said.
All of the artworks in Desert Country are drawn from the Art Gallery of South Australia's collection.
The Art Gallery of South Australia was the first cultural institution to purchase a work by an Aboriginal artist (Albert Namatjira in 1939) and, in 1981, became the first to start collecting Western Desert ‘dot' painting.
The Desert Country exhibition, catalogue and national tour are made possible thanks to the substantial sponsorship by Australian energy company, Santos, the Principal Partner of the Art Gallery of South Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection.
Santos GLNG President Mr Mark Macfarlane said, “Santos is committed to working with Aboriginal communities in a way that respects their cultures and supports the development of their communities.
“We are very pleased to support this exhibition of Australia's finest Aboriginal artists as part of a large portfolio of arts and community partnerships.”
This exhibition is supported by the Contemporary Touring Initiative through Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Government and state and territory governments.
All are welcome to attend a free seminar on Intercultural curatorship and community engagement on Saturday 4 August from 10.00 am, with Nici Cumpston (AGSA), Imelda Miller (Queensland Museum) and Mark O'Neill (Glasgow Life, UK), followed by a curator tour of the exhibition by Nici Cumpston at 1.00 pm.
Desert Country is open daily from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, and is on display until 21 October 2012.
Media: Michele Helmrich, Associate Director (Curatorial), UQ Art Museum (+61 7 3346 8759 or
A selection of images is available for media use for news and review here.
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