This exhibition revolves around the relevance of Aboriginal art to contemporary society and the unprecedented issues of the twenty-first century. As Professor Yuval Harari, author of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), states: ‘the existential challenges of nuclear war, ecological collapse and digital disruption are coming into plain sight.’ A Window on the Macrocosmos showcases the work of four innovative and representative female Aboriginal artists: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Dorothy Napangardi, and the sisters, Kathleen and Gloria Petyarre. The Australian Aboriginal culture is arguably the most successful and certainly the longest surviving civilisation in human history. It is complex, focused on sustaining life in the most hostile of environments, and a source of profound practical, spiritual and cultural knowledge. Aboriginal art not only reflects the earliest period of this ancient culture, but is also of great artistic and anthropological merit. These are just some of the reasons for its unique and continued significance. Pointillist constellations, hypnotic concentric circles and meandering lines all conceal the sacred motifs traced by the ancestors in the sand and on human bodies, which can only be deciphered by the initiated. Ancient Aboriginal languages were only spoken, rather than written, which gave rise to a vital oral and visual tradition. People communicated important cultural stories across the generations through symbols/ icons and sung poetry (performed in ceremonial cycles). The preservation of the Aboriginal culture was wholly dependent upon the handing down of such knowledge. Indigenous art is centred on storytelling, known as ‘Dreaming’. It is akin to a chronicle that records an understanding of the land, events, the cosmos and the beliefs of the Aboriginal people. The use of symbols is an alternate way of recording culturally significant stories, and of conveying survival skills, information about the natural world, and also of the sublime order of the universe, in which the human being is always just a very small part of the whole. As the Australian anthropologist Prof. A.P. Elkin wrote in The Australian Aborigines (1954): ‘this singular conception of the Aborigines, for whom past, present and future merge, is a kind of permanent state of grace, concentrating the vital energy of all Creation.' ‘We Homo sapiens are living through the beginning of a great upheaval’, said the novelist Ian McEwan in an essay published by the digital journal Airmail (18/01/2020), before continuing: ‘During the decades ahead, we will have to consider very carefully what it means to be human.’
A catalogue of the exhibition will be published.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Dorothy Napangardi, and the sisters, Kathleen and Gloria Petyarre.