This week, Linden New Art is bringing half a dozen artists from the remote communities of Australia’s north-west, such as Jigalong, Bidyadanga and Fitzroy Crossing. The show is called New Frontiers, and it’s about voices from the desert saying something new about traditional subjects.
Emma McCowan, the show’s curator, had the idea to spotlight indigenous artists that are exploring new media and new ideas in their communities. “A lot of the work is still about country, but the artists are being more experimental in terms of medium,” says McCowan. “And even within the works, which are simple paintings, the influences are broader than just the traditional styles.”
Daniel Walbidi’s background is in painting, but for New Frontiers he’s contributing an installation piece – an aerial rendering of the salt flats he has often depicted in his paintings. This time they are made with salt on the ground mixed with coloured pigment. His aerial views are observed by helicopter, making them distant but dramatic.
This work is personal to him. “All my work is about knowing things about country, and understanding things that the older people bestowed upon us,” says Walbidi. “This is about representing the salt lakes in the way that I actually experience them,” he says.
On the new-media side, Curtis Taylor has collaborated with Melbourne-based artist Lily Hibberd to create a video piece called The Phone Booth Project, focusing on the community activity around a beaten-up Telstra payphone.
The piece recalls a not-so-distant past when a community had one phone between them. “Back in the old days, if you went out hunting and wanted to talk to someone, you’d use fire to send smoke signals,” says Taylor. “Now people are scattered in different places, but we still need to reach them.” The video shows the phone booth being used as the main means of communication between different towns, but also as a gathering point and community hub.
“I think artists in these communities can feel pressured to work within the accepted style, but a lot have a desire to do something more individual,” says McCowan. “They’re still telling traditional stories, but incorporating a more personal side, and a more contemporary side.”
New Frontiers runs from July 16– September 6.
Linden New Art
26 Acland Street, St Kilda