It is not often we get to showcase three different mediums from a single art centre; but Ernabella is no ordinary art centre.
Located on APY Lands in the north-west corner of South Australia, Ernabella is Australia’s oldest continuously-running art centre. When visiting last year, I was fascinated by its long history of innovating across mediums to find new ways to share the old ways. The conversations started in the red desert dust have culminated in this unique exhibition of paintings, ceramics and mixed media sculpture.
The paintings showcase Ernabella’s senior artists, Yurpiya Lionel, Tjunkaya Tapaya and Carlene Thompson, alongside the art centre’s new stars: Janice Stanley, Michelle Lewis and Rachael Mipantjitji Lionel. The works reflect each artist’s different style but all paint with the same overriding objective: to share stories and keep culture strong.
The mixed media sculptures are from the Piruku Nintintjaku – Nyuyuntjaku project, funded by the Australia Council’s CHOSEN funding program. In this ground-breaking initiative, younger men in the community were able to go on Country and work with senior elders to produce both traditional Anangu tools and contemporary interpretations of them. Not only were cultural knowledge and traditional skills passed to a new generation but these truly stunning artworks were created.
The ceramics echo the tradition of Milpatjunanyi, where Pitjantjatjara women pass on stories to children through songs and marks in the sand. Using a technique known as scraffito, Ernabella’s ceramists make similar marks in the soft clay before their work is glazed, fired and emerges as beautiful and poignant metaphors for holding and protecting ancient stories.
Created in the centre of Australia, Ernabella’s stories have come east in what will be the art centre’s only Sydney exhibition this year. I hope you enjoy this exhibition as much as we have enjoyed putting it together, and that between us we can help Ernabella’s artists and their community through these times. Thank you for your continued support
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