Born 1981, Townsville, Queensland.
Lives and works Sydney.
Albert’s work is held in a number of public and private collections within Australia including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery – Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Born 1963, Maningrida, Northern Territory.
Lives and works Ngangalala (Reny) Homeland, Northern Territory.
Yolngu people, Yirritja moiety, Daygurrgurr clan, Bangaditjan skin, Gupapuyngu language.
While born in Maningrida, Frances Djulibing spent most of her childhood travelling between Elcho Island, Ramingining and Milingimbi. She was taught her artistic skills by her father Johnny Daingangan, and her weaving techniques by her mother Nancy Muwalpindi.
Currently residing about 10 km from Ramingining in North Eastern Arnhem Land, Djulibing is the Chairperson of Bula-bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation, as well as being a mother, grandmother, actor, weaver, linguist, translator, educator and comedian. She is best known for playing the lead female role in 10 Canoes, the 2006 film by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, and was the subject of Darlene Johnson’s documentary River of No Return. Recently, Djulibing worked as associate producer on Charlie’s Country, the film by Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil, and is part of a theatre adaptation of King Lear, titled The Shadow King, for Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in October 2013.
Djulibing is committed to teaching her children and grandchildren the techniques and stories she learned from her parents, noting, ‘These kids are our future and I want them to carry on the tradition’.
Born 1982, Moranbah, Queensland. Lives and works Brisbane.
Bidjara and Ghungalu people.
The artist is currently undertaking his Honours year of study having completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art at the Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University in Brisbane. Throughout his degree the artist has received numerous awards including a Griffith University GAS Award in 2012.
Born 1953, Roma, Queensland. Lives and works Brisbane.
Trained in graphic art and working across range of mediums including drawing, painting and sculpture, Laurie Nilsen is widely known for his sculptural works using barbed wire which engage with cultural, political and environmental debates and ideas. While much of Nilsen’s work addresses issues that directly impact on the lives of Aboriginal people, he also recognises the universality of such concerns.
In the early 1990s Nilsen became a founding member of the Campfire Group Artists, becoming notable for being one of the first ‘urban’ Aboriginal artists whose work was collected by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Today Nilsen is an active member of the proppaNOW collective in Brisbane that also includes artists Vernon Ah Kee, Tony Albert, Richard Bell, Megan Cope, Jennifer Herd and Gordon Hookey.
Nilsen is an important mentor to younger artists through his artwork and as a lecturer in contemporary Australian Indigenous art at Griffith University in Brisbane.
He was the recipient of the 24th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for sculpture in 2007. His work is held in numerous private and public collections, including the Australian Museum, Sydney, and the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
Born 1960, Launceston, Tasmania. Lives and works Launceston.
An Aboriginal artist of the Trawlwoolway people from the North-East region of Tasmania, Vicki West’s arts practice includes large-scale installations incorporating multiple elements, smaller-scale sculptural works, textiles, painting and new media. She draws on traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural practices and materials to create contemporary artworks that explore and celebrate cultural survival in the face of continuing colonial myths about the extinction of her people, noting ‘we are still here’.
String was used for all manner of functional purposes by Aboriginal cultures: for fishing lines, nets and other snares and traps; to make bags for gathering and carrying; for hafting tools, and lashing structures such as watercraft together. It was also the basic ‘stuff’ for making body wear, and items of adornment usually for ceremonial purposes: necklaces, belts, armbands, headbands, pubic covers, chest harnesses. In Yolngu culture in North-Eastern Arnhem Land, string features in myth as an attribute of ancestral beings, attaining a sacred resonance and power. Lengths of decorated string are festooned from poles in ceremony, symbolically linking different clans and their territories together, and linking past, present and future generations.
The string figures of Yirrkala were documented by anthropologist Fred McCarthy, who in 1948 spent nine months in Arnhem Land, studying the construction methods of the string figures and their meanings. McCarthy collaborated with Ngarrawu Mununggurr to create a large collection of 192 mounted string figures, which is now held in the Australian Museum in Sydney.
The series of string figure prints in this exhibition were prompted by the reconnection of the community with this collection. In Yirrkala today there is a popular repertoire of simple figures and tricks that just about everyone knows, but the extensive lexicon of designs that McCarthy recorded is no longer current. These prints were made by older women – some practising artists; the eldest a near contemporary of Ngarrawu – largely recalling a past skill, something they used to do, something they used to be good at. Most had not picked up a string for many years. The women went about remembering how to make designs through a practical interplay of thinking and doing, of hand and mind. If they recalled particular techniques, and took pleasure in the fluidity of these manipulations, they might not necessarily remember the correct order in which movement built on movement in sequence to achieve a particular outcome – the figure they were searching for. Then they might work it out. Having ‘got it’ once, the next time they might ‘fluff it’ – a cause for laughter. The process could be testing, if not painful, shadowed as it was by the knowing sense of a loss that was not merely personal. In the course of things, each of the women recollected a number of designs – interestingly, largely different ones from each other – which became their own personal repertoire.
The making of collections of mounted figures was a way of hedging against the expected imminent loss of Indigenous cultures, by preserving a record. Loss is inherent to their conception and is something we can read in the strange ‘stillness’ of these images. In translating an ephemeral, embodied performance art into a fixed, stable two-dimensional form there is a lot that is left out, taken away. In the making, string figures are never still.
I can’t help but feel these prints have a melancholic beauty like the collections on which they are based. But abstracted from that history, passed through the roller of the printing press, displayed in the white cube of the gallery, they are becoming something else.
– Robyn McKenzie