21 January 2006

Abstract art, australian

Currently on show nearby, but about to end, some Australian Aboriginal paintings, including this one by Kathleen Petyarr. It's large, a least 1.20 metres wide, and could well inspire a quilt.

The show also has work by Gloria Petyarr. This painting inspired my applique piece "Blown Away":
Blown Away consists of hundreds of thumbnail-sized leaf shapes. The image was once on the website of the magazine Art and Australia in an article about "bush gardens", and I used it for the second "analyse a painting" challenge on AQL (was that in 2002?) - we found a painting we liked, wrote an analysis, posted it to the group, then made a quilt based on it. Some quilts got finished, some didn't, but it was an interesting exercise. Blown Away is made in seven sections, using slightly different combinations of fabric:Gloria Petyarre's works on show at the October gallery continue with the "leaf" them. She worked in the medium of batik between 1977 and 1987; it would be interesting to use the memory of her paintings as a starting-point for batik...

But back to the paintings. Those in the display in the October Gallery look wonderful together and on the white walls. I think that to people outside Aboriginal culture, these paintings are largely enjoyed for their attractive patterning. We don't have the insider knowledge of the subject, and like anyone outside the artist's clan, are not allowed to know -- the right to paint a certain dreaming passes through the family, and though some parts are allowed to be explained to outsiders, much is not. So these paintings have to "work" on another level, fitting in with an individual's or a culture's sensibilities.

Essentially, I like the way those many dots, or strokes, build up into a bigger idea. The power of repetition and cumulation. And the power of work that emerges when people start with, and concentrate on, something so basic to their lives and that they know really well.

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