29 May – 23 June
Opening Wednesday 29 May 5.30pm
by Fiona Hall
Despard Gallery, in association with Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Alice Springs and Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, is proud to present a curated exhibition of woven artworks by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers alongside two women painters from the Lockhart River region, Rosella Namok, Samantha Hobson and Joanne Currie Nalingu from the Maranoa region, South West Queensland.
Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra PitjantjatjaraYakunytjatjara (NPY)Women’sCouncil, using native grasses to sculpt contemporary fibre art. Tjanpi (meaning grass in Pitjantjatjara language) represents over 400 Anangu/Yarnangu women artists from 26 remote communities on the NPY lands which stretches across approximately 350,000 square kilometres across the tri-states Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Tjanpi field officers regularly traverse this area to visit each community. On these trips, field officers purchase artworks from artists, supply art materials, hold skills development workshops, and facilitate grass-collecting. While out collecting grass, women are also able to spend time on Country and maintain their culture through gathering food, hunting, performing inma (cultural song and dance), and teaching their children.
Tjanpi artists use native grasses to make spectacular contemporary fibre art, weaving beautiful baskets and sculptures and displaying endless creativity and inventiveness. Originally developing from the traditional practice of making manguri rings, working with fibre in this way has become a fundamental part of Central and Western desert culture. Tjanpi embodies the energies and rhythms of Country, culture and community. The shared stories, skills and experiences of this wide-reaching network of mothers, daughters, aunties, sisters and grandmothers form the bloodline of the desert weaving phenomenon and have fuelled Tjanpi’s rich history of collaborative practice. Tjanpi has a public gallery in Alice Springs showcasing baskets, sculptures, jewellery, books, merchandise and more, while Tjanpi artworks are also found at stockists around the country. Tjanpi regularly exhibits work in national galleries, facilitates commissions for public institutions, and holds public weaving workshops.
Joanne Currie Nalingu has realised a highly charged individual style that, although instantly recognisable as Aboriginal, speaks of her journey as an artist moving within cultures. The importance of the river as a metaphor is a constant in Joanne’s painting, as this takes her back to the hardships of her early life living on the banks of the Maranoa River. In 2008, she won The Wynne Prize at AGNSW and has been a finalist numerous times in the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Award.
Rosella Namok first appeared on the contemporary art scene in the late 1990s as one of the more prominent members of the newly established Far North Queensland’s renowned Lockhart River ‘Art Gang’. A small and remote community, Lockhart River is located eight hundred kilometres north of Cairns on the Eastern Cape York Peninsula. Rosella’s paintings continue to reflect both traditional stories and contemporary themes associated with cultural, social and environmental concerns. Through a technique developed by watching her grandmother drawing in the sand, Rosella creates her signature finger-patterned linear arrangements by pulling her fingers through the paint.
Also, one of the Lockhart River ‘Art Gang’ is artist Samantha Hobson. Growing up, she experienced traditional life – such as camping, fishing, gathering berries – within and around the Lockhart River area. Samantha is living and working in Cairns as well as completing private and corporate commissions in Brisbane studios. Her paintings continue to reflect both traditional stories and contemporary themes associated with cultural, social and environmental concerns. Thick layering of paints with bright marine colours are used to reflect Samantha’s memories of life on the reef with the fish flashing past, the coral, the sea grass and the shallow water fading to deep.