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Queensland Art Gallery opens major exhibition of Indigenous Australian art
Lin Onus (Yorta Yorta people, 1948-1996), Portrait of Jack Wunuwun, 1988. Janet Holmes Court Collection.

BRISBANE.- A major exhibition of Indigenous Australian art, ‘Sung into Being: Aboriginal Masterworks 1984-94’ including more than 100 paintings and sculptures by eight Australian Aboriginal artists from the Janet Holmes Court Collection opens at the Queensland Art Gallery from 22 July until 22 October, 2017.

Premier and Arts Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said 'Sung into Being: Aboriginal Masterworks 1984-94' was a free, exclusive-to-Queensland exhibition.

‘This exhibition of important works from the Janet Holmes Court Collection is another great addition to the Queensland cultural precinct program, which offers wonderful and varied cultural experiences for local, interstate and international visitors,’ the Premier said.

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said ‘Sung into Being’ celebrated songs and ceremonies connected with the creation of the land, embodied by rich poetic narratives in paintings and sculptures by Australian Aboriginal artists from the Kimberley and Arnhem Land.

Mr Saines said artists represented include Rover Joolama Thomas (c.1926–1998), Jack Wunuwun (1930–91), John Bulunbulun (1946–2010), Jack Kalakala (1925–87), Les Mirrikkuriya (1932-95), England Banggala (1925–2001) and Terry Ngamandara Wilson (1950–2011), from a creative period when these Indigenous artists were exploring new ground, and the works were acquired at the time with great foresight by Janet Holmes Court and her husband Robert (1937–1990).

‘‘Sung into Being’ offers audiences a unique opportunity to access works by a seminal group of Indigenous Australian artists with an intimate knowledge of their creation stories and clan lands,’ Mr Saines said.

‘This exhibition captures an intensely productive and exciting period when Aboriginal art first began to be exhibited and collected as fine art and embodies both the stylised aesthetic of the Kimberley and the colour palette and imagery of central and southern Arnhem Land.'

‘Janet and the late Robert Holmes Court developed their internationally renowned art collection together from the 1960s through to 1990 when Robert died suddenly. Janet has continued the acquisition of works for the collection since his death. Motivated by a keen interest in Australian and Indigenous art, their resulting collection is a wonderful legacy of Australian cultural significance.’

Diane Moon, Curator of Indigenous Fibre Art, QAGOMA, said ‘Sung into Being’ gave particular focus to Rover Thomas, one of the first Indigenous Australian artists acquired for the Holmes Court Collection.

‘Thomas is a renowned figure. He forged new conventions in Aboriginal art and created new opportunities for the east Kimberley school of artists. He also opened the way for the general acceptance of Aboriginal art both nationally and internationally,’ Ms Moon said.

‘Some of Thomas’s major works featured in the exhibition include Djundugal (Rainbow Serpent) Dreaming Place 1986, and The shade from the hill comes over and talks in language 1984.’

‘Sung into Being’ also includes two important series of paintings by brothers-in-law Jack Wunuwun (1930–91) and John Bulunbulun (1946–2010), depicting their clan manikay (song cycles).

An ambitious canvas painting by Wunuwun of the Banumbirr (morning star) Murrungun people’s creation narrative is expanded in 30 exquisite small bark paintings representing elements of the song and dance sequence. Bulunbulun’s series is a strong contemporary interpretation of the Ganalbingu people’s Murrukundja Manikay – the ceremonial songs and dances that tell the history of Macassan visitors to northern coastal Australia.

Other highlights in the exhibition include England Bannggala’s dynamic paintings featuring mythological events and the wangarr (spirits) that created his lands.

Janet Holmes Court will be in Brisbane for the Opening Weekend programs.

‘I am delighted to see these works being together at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modem Art and am sure the exhibition will be well received,’ Mrs Holmes Court said.

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