Tarnanthi, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA)’s major celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, returns this week with close to 1000 artists exhibiting across SA, from Port Augusta to McLaren Vale.
Participating artists, whose ages range from 13 to 89, are working with a variety of media, including photography, weaving, sculpture, painting, fashion, film and immersive installations.
“Storytelling lies at the heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ work, and Tarnanthi provides us with an occasion to listen,” says the festival's artistic director Nici Cumpston.
“If we give them our fullest attention, they can transport us across time and country, into different ways of seeing and understanding. They represent a generous gift and it is an honour to work with these artists to present their stories at this year’s Tarnanthi.”
At AGSA, John Prince Siddon will exhibit psychedelic paintings on canvas, bullock skulls and kangaroo pelts that deliver commentaries on environmental, social and political issues. Desert artists from Irrunytju, at the intersection of the WA, SA and NT borders, share their stories on salvaged and painted car parts in an exhibition titled Mutaka (motor car). Yankunytjatjara artist Kaylene Whiskey merges pop culture and traditional knowledge in her witty painting on a found road sign and moving image works.
Still at AGSA, 2021 NATSIAA winner Timo Hogan will present a colossal triptych of his homeland, Lake Baker, in the Great Victoria Desert. While Gail Mabo recalibrates traditional navigational charts used by Torres Strait Islander people in her bamboo installation Tagai and pays homage to her famous late father, Eddie Koiki Mabo. And Julie Gough’s unsettling installation converses with colonial works from AGSA’s collection.
“Tarnanthi once again demonstrates itself to be a charged and porous space for contemporary expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art,” says AGSA director Rhana Devenport. “Visitors can experience the potency and vitality of culture in Tarnanthi through close to 60 projects at AGSA and across the state in a wealth of exhibitions.”
Umbrella exhibitions include an augmented-reality experience, Ngura Pulka – Epic Country, at APY Gallery, which will transport visitors to the APY Lands, and a group exhibition at The Mill, STRNG WMN, which explores what it means to be strong Aboriginal women through dance, footy, weaving and the act of coming together. While Ace Open’s Water Rites examines our relationship to water from the situation of the driest state on the driest continent on earth.
The Tarnanthi Art Fair will also return – online – this weekend only, with a digital display of works for sale selected by art centres across the country. Since 2015, more than $4 million worth of art has been sold at the Tarnanthi Art Fair, with all proceeds going directly to the artists and their community-run art centres.