Photo credit: Miriam Grundy

Everywhen: Australian Indigenous art takes center stage in Boston

Written by AWNY Committee Member, Miriam Grundy.

 

AWNY is excited to share that the biggest exhibition in 25 years of contemporary Australian Indigenous art has opened at the Harvard Art Museums, Boston, and is on display through September 18, 2016.

American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia is supporting the upcoming exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia.

An exhibition of this scope has not been seen in the United States since the seminal Dreamings exhibition, held at the Asia Society, New York City in 1988. Often cited as the event that introduced American collectors to Australian Indigenous art, Everywhen will be just as significant in introducing a new generation of audiences to what Australian art critic, Robert Hughes described as the ‘last great art movement of the 20th Century’.

The exhibition features more than 70 works of varying scale and media, drawn from public and private collections in Australia and the United States, including important artworks from the National Gallery of Australia’s Indigenous collection.

The Idea Behind the ‘Everywhen’

The exhibition takes its title from the concept of ‘the Everywhen’, a term coined by Australian anthropologist William Stanner in the 1960s to describe his comprehension of Indigenous people’s understanding of time, which is conceptualized as part of a cyclical and circular order where past, present, and future are intertwined.

“The central idea of the exhibition is time,” said Gilchrist, the Australian Studies Visiting Curator at the Harvard Art Museums, “Everyone can relate to time; artists across the globe and across centuries have responded to the task of thinking about time and its promise, presentness, and passing. But this exhibition asks people to think about time from an Indigenous perspective, to consider how it is marked, observed, and sensed.”

The exhibition has been guest curated for the Harvard Art Museums by Indigenous Australian Stephen Gilchrist, of the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of Western Australia. Gilchrist has shaped the exhibition to ensure that it centers around the authentic perspectives and experiences of Indigenous people from Australia.

Artist Profile: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Notable Australian women featured in the exhibition include Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910–1996). Emily only started painting in her late 70s, however a lifetime spent living on her Country – Utopia, Northern Territory meant that her body of knowledge of this region was all encompassing.

Pho

Artwork by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910–1996). Photo credit: Miriam Grundy

Despite only being active for the last eight years of her life, she quickly became one of Australia’s most successful artists and, at the time, was one of the highest paid women in the country. Despite all this, Emily slept under the stars every night in her humpee, indifferent to the fuss that went with trappings of success. Any money that was made was quickly shared amongst the community and her daily life remained totally in sync with the Country that she painted everyday.

As a painter, Emily was a force. She unleashed her Yam Dreaming- her totem and the story she painted again and again over the canvas with unbridled energy and unflinching instinct. Painting everyday, Emily used her physical strength gained through years of camel herding and hard labor, and her ambidextrous abilities to ‘put down’ her story – sometimes long meandering lines and other times bashing out dots, a technique that became known as ‘dump dump’. Like Pollock she painted on the ground but, unlike him, she crouched over the canvas until done. She was renowned for walking away from a canvas without even looking back at the finished work; such was her assuredness about what it said, and what it meant.

Visit the exhibit on a long weekend trip to Boston

We encourage all AWNY members to take advantage of this rare opportunity to view some of the most important Australian art of the 20th Century, and only 4 ½ hours from Penn Station!

The American Friends of National Gallery of Australia will be organizing a summer excursion, leaving from New York, to the view Everywhen exhibition at Cambridge. The Directors cordially invite AWNY members, their family and friends to join them for what will be a fulfilling and enjoyable day. Please email Jill Viola to register your interest.

The newly renovated Renzo Piano designed galleries at Harvard Art Museums will provide the perfect setting for this exhibition, asking viewer to look at Indigenous art through the purview of contemporary art.

The exhibition will be on display in the museums’ Special Exhibitions Gallery from February 5 through September 18, 2016, and there are plenty of artist and gallery talks to take advantage of. For more information visit: Harvard Art Museum’s calendar of events.

About AFNGA

AFNGA has a long history of advocating and facilitating cultural dialogues between the United States and Australia through the visual arts. AFNGA’s involvement in Everywhen represents a continuation of the rich and diverse cultural programs that they host throughout the year. If you are Interested in finding out more about AFNGA and their mission? Contact Jill Viola.