Newsletter for December 2003

1. What’s New at Aboriginal Art Online
2. Clifford Possum Retrospective Opens
3. Death of Major Tiwi Artist
4. Landmark Native Title Decision in the Kimberley
5. New Tests Double Age of Australian Rock Art
6. Australian Prehistory: Mungo man, Eel Farming
7. Subscription to and removal from our mailing list

What’s New at Aboriginal Art Online
Gwion image

2003 has been another year of rapid change in the world of Aboriginal art. Some of the events or issues which have caught my attention are:

the continuing emergence of excellent urban-based Aboriginal artists (though not all wish to identify themselves in this way, preferring to see themselves as contemporary Australian artists) – including July Dowling, Richard Bell, Destiny Deacon and others.
the death of major figures in traditional Aboriginal art, including the sad loss of Kitty Kantilla, Maryanne Mungatopi, Henry Wambini, Lucy Yukenbarri, Susie Bootja Bootja, Mati Mudjidell and Prince of Wales
the commitment of the Australian government to a “droite de suite” resale royalty for artists
the continuing importance of having good provenance and documentation for paintings, and the increasing role of community art centres in providing this
tensions (at times) between the role of commercial galleries and art centres in developing and promoting emerging Aboriginal artists
the apparent narrowing of the range of work offered in major auctions to the extent that they appear dominated by a limited number of the best known artists
the success of the Telstra Art Awards and Desert Mob show in Alice Springs, and the opportunities these give to lesser-known artists
the success of artists from the Irrunytju centre at Wingellina, and the unfortunate decline of the centre shortly afterwards
the increasing overlap between Aboriginal art and contemporary Australian art (as seen, for example, in the Telstra Art Awards)
I would be interested in your views or comments on these and any other significant matters in Aboriginal art.

Our last Newsletter was much earlier this year. We originally intended to send out the Newsletter every one or two months, but the work of updating the Web site, adding new works, and expanding the communities and artists has made this impossible.

For 2004 we are aiming to send you a Newsletter every two to three months, with a briefer Web site update in between.

We will also be offering fine quality painted didgeridoos early in 2004. The didgeridoos have arrived and we are setting up a separate Web site to display them. We will send an email announcement as soon as it is operating.

Seasons greetings to all members of this mailing list!

Clifford Possum Retrospective Opens

Clifford Possum painting

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (c.1932 – 2002) has been honoured by a major retrospective exhibition which opened recently at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. The exhibition is the first comprehensive retrospective of any Western Desert painter’s work to be staged by a major art museum.

It comprises 48 paintings and 2 sculptures and includes major works drawn from public and private collections in Australia, Europe and America, reflecting the artist’s international success.

Of all the Western Desert artists, Clifford Possum is regarded as perhaps the most innovative and accomplished. Born in the early 1930s at Napperby Station, north west of Alice Springs, Clifford Possum lived and worked in his ancestral Anmatyerre country for most of his life.

He was an expert wood-carver and took up painting long before the emergence of the Papunya Tula school in the early 1970s. When Clifford joined this group of painters with his brother, the late artist Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, he immediately distinguished himself as one of its most talented members and went on to create some of the largest and most complex ‘dot’ paintings ever produced.

Clifford Possum was the first Indigenous Australian artist to be recognised by the international art world. When his major work, ‘Man’s Love Story 1978’ was purchased by the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1980 it became the first ‘dot’ painting to enter a major public art collection. Like Albert Namatjira before him, Clifford Possum blazed a trail for future generations of Indigenous artists, bridging the gap between Aboriginal art and contemporary Australian art.

A fully-illustrated book about the artist, written by Vivien Johnson (who has curated the exhibition) and published by the Art Gallery of South Australia, accompanies the exhibition. It is available in our Online Shop.

We currently have an attractive medium sized work by Clifford Possum “Mulga Seed Dreaming” on our Web site – it was painted in 1988 and has excellent provenance.