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A Thousand Journeys Converges on Manly

Source: Northern Beaches Council
Posted: 24 May 2018
Thousand Journeys, Eubena Nampitjin, Untitled, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 120cm © Eubena Nampitjin Licenced by Viscopy, 2017
After almost 20 years, a special exhibition of late 20th century paintings by some of Australia’s most celebrated Aboriginal artists returns to the Manly Art Gallery & Museum.

The paintings in the A Thousand Journeys exhibition are drawn from a collection by renowned Aboriginal art collector, Helen Read.

Many of the 60 paintings on canvas and bark were first exhibited in the late 90s around Australia. They are now back in Sydney, supplemented by works from an expanded range of artists.

Manly Art Gallery & Museum’s Senior Curator Katherine Roberts said most of the paintings were collected in the early 90s when the artists were not well known and before Aboriginal art began to flourish in art galleries around the world.

“We are delighted to have this exceptional exhibition back at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum. The paintings from remote areas of Australia are not normally on display unless you visit a State gallery,” she said.

Underpinned by the interlinked themes of travel and discovery, the exhibition provides a guide to the abundant, diverse and distinct forms of Aboriginal art from Australia’s north and north-western regions.

Helen Read said the collection of paintings were a chronicle of her time in the outback with indigenous artists.

“Each painting is an evocative representation of the time I spent with each artist, which was so precious and important to me.

“I have chosen each work on the basis that it truly reflects the ‘DNA’ of the artist, as well as encapsulating a specific period in Aboriginal art history,” Ms Read said.

The exhibition is part of the Gai-mariagal Festival, formerly the Guringai Festival, which is a celebration of indigenous heritage and culture in the Northern Sydney region.

The theme of the festival – celebrating the role and influence of women in indigenous culture - is reflected in the exhibition which includes a larger number of paintings from female artists than the original exhibition.

Initially trained in fine art, Helen Read began gaining an appreciation of Aboriginal art while working as a midwife and pilot for the Pintupi Homelands Health Service in the Gibson Desert, Western Australia.

Read established an art tour company, connecting remote art centres with collectors and dealers and introducing influential people to Aboriginal communities. Her aim was to contribute to a better collective understanding of Aboriginal Australia.

The tours gave rise to Read’s personal collection, now a significant cultural chronicle of contemporary Aboriginal art. 

When the exhibition first toured in 1998, the individual works offered an insight into ancient landscapes and spiritually-laden terrain not widely seen or understood by the wider population at the time.

In the 20 years since, Aboriginal art has taken pride of place in State and national galleries and there have been new awards and festivals established for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.

“Within this context, the current showing of A Thousand Journeys gives pause for thought on the shifting status of Indigenous Australian art in the nation’s recent past. It is now a vibrant expression of a dynamic and contemporary visual culture,” Ms Roberts said.

For details, visit the gallery website or call Manly Art Gallery & Museum on 9976 1421.

Aboriginal Art Exhibition - A Thousand Journeys

Friday 25 May - Sunday 8 July 2018

Official opening:      
Friday 25 May, 6 - 8pm
by Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, former Governor of New South Wales. There will be an Acknowledgement of Country by Susan Moylan-Coombs, co-chair of the Gai-mariagal Festival.

Special talk:
Sunday 27 May, 3 – 4pm.
Join Helen Read for afternoon tea and a walk through the exhibition.

Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Cnr West Esplanade & Commonwealth Pde, Manly

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