Hängung #14Hängung #15
Hängung #14

Hängung #14: NEUE BILDER Aboriginal Painting
18th of October 2015 - 5th of June 2016

Spots. Stripes. Bands. And circles time after time, showing various centres in the image overall. Organic areas and lines, but also graphic patterns, set in contrasts of strong colours or in harmonious colour tones. Initially, we can describe the painting of the Australian Aborigines only in abstract terms. Yet their art is not without objective. It is a testament to an ancient culture, which has developed visual ciphers for interpretation of the real world.

Originally incorporated in rites and ceremonies, the painting of the Aborigines has been recognised worldwide since the 1970s, in modified form and painted onto canvas. It fascinates people, including Alison and Peter W. Klein, who have been collecting art from Australia for over ten years. The work complex in Nussdorf is now one of the principal collections of Aboriginal art in Europe.

In the "Neue Bilder (New Pictures)" exhibition, the works presented in KUNSTWERK are mainly pieces that have come into the collection in the last four years. The title here relates not only to the period of acquisition; it also refers to the fact that the pictures being created today are part of a living tradition, which is yielding new appearances despite content restrictions.

The Aborigines settled in Australia over 50,000 years ago and established many language groups. All lived as hunter-gatherers. They shared the basic features of a world view that traced humans and nature to the same origins, namely the creative forces inherent in the land itself. Humans had special responsibility for the land, which they met through ceremonies and through sustainable everyday action.

Artistic forms of expression were an important part of traditional life. They survive today in the form of rock art and petroglyphs but the majority were extremely transient – as ground images created for ritual purposes, body painting or dance crests. As many traditions were sacred and secret, they remained largely unknown to the new European-American immigrants until the middle of the 20th century.

The use of industrial paints and modern, mobile painting surfaces dates back to 1972, when ritual specialists in Papunya began to express parts of their special tradition in new image formats. The fundamental theme was and is the land, the specific form of which – mountain ranges, lakes, waterholes or trees – is traced back to creative beings. To this day, the creative force in these places can and must be activated for the present time.

To this day, for the artists, the proper – true – implementation of their respective specific traditions is more important than aesthetic criteria. However, this does not prevent them from experimenting with different artistic possibilities and breaking new ground. The international regard for their art demonstrates that, with it, they have created a form of communication which gains the recognition for their culture and traditions that was denied them for so long in colonial Australia.

Many artists now live in so-called homelands. These are communities of Aborigines who settle on the land awarded to them close to their sacred sites, for which they assume responsibility. In legal proceedings about native land titles, the increasing awareness of artistic expression of local traditions has been very significant.

A tour of the exhibition:

In the exhibition "NEW PICTURES, Painting of the Aborigines" KUNSTWERK - the collection of Alison and Peter W. Klein - presents mostly works from Central Australia. Two digressions lead to the Mornington Islands and the region of Kimberley in the north of Queensland / Western Australia.

On Level 1 in KUNSTWERK, works are assembled, which refer in their creative form to the beginnings of Aborigine painting in the 1970s. That goes for the paintings by Ngipi Ward (Patjarr, Kayili Artists) and Kanta Kathleen Donnegan (Tjuntuntjara, Spinifex Art Projects). The works, which were created in 2013 and 2014, demonstrate the spectrum established even in the 1970s between comprehensive "documentation" of a region with its sacred places and the specific local view and its seasonal changes.

The artists who have settled from Papunya into Kiwirkurra and Kintore and who work there include Patrick Tjungurray, George Yapa Tjangala, Ronny Tjampitjinpa, Ray James Tjangala and Josepf Jurra Tjapaltjarri. Their pictures can be seen on the 1st floor and on the stairway to the 2nd floor. Almost without exception, they are devoted to the big issue of the tingari cycle, which recounts the creation of the land and the migrations of the tingari men and their novices followed by the tingari women and children.



A large proportion of the works on Level 2 were painted by women. They have their own pictorial traditions and content, focus on the fertility of the land, take up specific forms of body painting, or refer to dances that are associated with sacred places.

From Amata, the "Tjala Arts" art centre, come pictures by Sylvia Ken and Barbara Moore as well as a communal work by sisters Yaritji Young, Tjungkara Ken, Freda Brady, Sandra Ken and Marinka Tunkin.
The content of the painting by Silvia Ken is the story of the "Seven Sisters", which is portrayed in many women's dances and associated with the Seven Sisters of Pleiades. Whilst her work displays typical features of "dot painting", Barbara Moore breaks away from this: she paints "My Country", i.e. the specific aspects of her country, with powerful, gestural brushstrokes. The subject of the communal work is the tjukurrpa of the honey ant.

The pieces by Ngupulya Pumani and Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, both of whom work in Myillili in the art centre Mimili Maku Arts, also refer to the tjukurrpa of an important foodstuff for the nomadic Aborigines: the witchetty grub. Whereas Tuppy Goodwin also shows the wider surroundings around the ceremonial site of Antara, Ngupulya Pumani incorporates into her composition the women whose dances cause the grubs to multiply: represented in the form of semicircles highlighted by the shimmering of the dots.

Alongside two paintings by the now legendary Emily Kame Kngwarreye from Utopia, the pictures of Sally Gabori and May Moodoonuthi in particular display a very individual style. Both belong to a senior group of painters on the Mornington Islands in Northern Australia. Like Emily Kame Kngwarreye, they came into contact with canvas and paints only at an older age and burst open our idea of the nature of Aborigine painting. They work with powerful brushstrokes and strong colours: May Moodoonuthi in connection with traditional body painting and grief scars; Sally Gabori in memory of the island of her childhood, which she translates into painting with layers of colour and big gestures.

Against the strongly coloured paintings, one series of works sets its own accent in the exhibition: they have a graphical nature. Their effect is characterised by the black/white contrast. With lines, precise dotting or colour application structures, the pictures - again painted by men and referring to the tingari cycle - are able to convey landscape characteristics or movement.

A number of works on Level 2, which come from Kimberley in the north of Western Australia, appear similarly reduced in colour. The late Rover Thomas and the artists still active from Warmun blend their own colours from local ochre, charcoal and pipeclay. The otherwise frequently used dots are used only sparingly in their work, to delimit areas. Their subject is also the land, its power, its "bones", often coupled with personal, emotional experiences or with historic events that resonate in the works but are revealed only rarely.

With the latest selection of works, the exhibition aims to show the vitality in the development of Aborigine painting. The artists do not content themselves merely with reproducing painting traditions of local origin; more than ever, they are in dialogue with each other and with urban centres and they are challenged to develop their own forms of expression from their conventions, from their visual and auditory memory, and from external stimuli.

For the current exhibition, a 60-page catalogue, "Hängung #14 - NEUE BILDER, Malerei der Aborigines", has been published with a text by curator Dr Ingrid Heermann of Stuttgart.