Sultan writes: "The story of the beginnings of these paintings is very interesting: for thousands of years, Australian aboriginal painting was done on rocks, on sand, on bodies. It wasn't until 1971-2, when art teacher Geoffey Bardon encouraged the men at Papunya in central Australia to put their ephemeral sand paintings onto canvas, that a new world of painting began. At first the work was quite controversial; sacred designs meant to be solely for ritual and only seen by initiates were being shown. Soon the artists confined themselves to depicting symbols that were not secret and could be seen by the public, but they still used traditional dot patterning, and the paintings continued to be immersed in the sacred landscape."
Sultan writes: "The bark paintings are made by the indigenous peoples of Northern Australia, using natural pigments for their paints. The patterns and images are all deeply symbolic of land and history and culture; a wall label describes them as 'metaphysical landscapes.' The iconography of Manirrkki's painting is described as invoking 'sequences of songs, dances, colors, and body designs used in closed ceremonies that are anchored to specifics of place.' ...The combination of brilliant painting with a depth of meaning tied to ancient traditions makes these works remarkably compelling."
Writing about Crossing Cultures and Ancestral Modern (recently on view at the Seattle Museum), Barlow notes that "many of the works in both of these shows are by artists who are second (and even third) generation, following on the path laid by those first pioneering elders 40 years ago. The lineage in the work is evident, but these younger painters are not caught in a derivative loop of tradition and style. The work feels fresh, exploratory and yet still elementally Aboriginal. I connect deeply with the old as well as the new."
Poundstone writes: "Painted barkcloths were originally clothing, to be worn and discarded. Many of the designs draw on tattooing (in New Guinea) or skin painting (in the Ituri rainforest of Central Africa). The African side of the show fits a more familiar template. Ituri cloths (one example at left) have been prized and collected by big-name Western artists - including Brice Marden and Terry Winters - yet most of the names of the Ituri artists are lost."
Extending an earlier post about metonymy in art, the subject of a book by Denise Green, Deborah Barlow blogs about "the aboriginal women artists of Utopia, in particular Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Minnie Pwerle. Although never exposed to contemporary western art, these women produced paintings that are conversant with something I was seeing in the work of Western artists I admired like Jackson Pollock, Brice Marden and Joan Snyder."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.