National links bolster Indigenous art scene

ALREADY-STRONG ties between the WA and national art galleries will be further enhanced by the appointment of Brenda Croft to the position of senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra.

Ms Croft takes up her new position on February 4, ending three years as Indigenous curator at the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA), where she worked to promote Indigenous Western Australian art, giving particular attention to Nyoongar art.

Ms Croft said her position at the National Gallery would be an extension of the work she already had begun.

“There’s a big program opening in January 2003 as part of the Perth Festival, which is a major contemporary survey on South West Indigenous art, and I’ll be curating that from Canberra,” she said.

“We’re hoping to tour that nationally and close at the NGA, which is keen to take it on.

“That will really put the South West on the map nationally, as it should, because it needed addressing.”

AGWA director Alan Dodge agreed that, while losing Ms Croft was unfortunate in one sense, at another level it would strengthen the relationship.

“We already have a pretty good tie with the National Gallery because I came from there and was their senior adviser for special exhibitions and development,” Mr Dodge said.

“The Monet exhibition and From Russia With Love were projects that I headed up when I was at the National Gallery, and when I came here as director we became the partners for both exhibitions.

“We’re looking to the future to work on others and, with Brenda going to the National Gallery, we have a chance to work on something really interesting.”

One of the major projects that will link the two galleries is an exhibition due to open in 12 months entitled South West/Central: Indigenous Art from Western Australia.

The exhibition, which will be part of next summer’s Perth Festival, will include works by Nyoongar artists dating back to the 1830s.

“One of the projects that we’ll be working on in partnership is South West Central because it also looks at the colonial eye and some of the earliest drawings found,” Mr Dodge said.

“We’ve discovered a drawing by a Nyoongar artist of the 1830s which is currently in London and we’re trying to secure it for the exhibition.”

Assistant Indigenous art curator Tina Carmody said most of the works in the exhibition were from the mid 20th century.

“It is mainly representative of the 1950s and the Carrolup artists, who were influenced by Albert Namatjira, who was at the height of his fame at that time,” she said.

“We’ve got artists like Bella Kelly and Reynold Hart and Keith Indich, and they painted the land the same as Albert did.

“The paintings speak of a love of country despite the hardships they faced.

“The exhibition is significant too because the gallery sits on Nyoongar land and it’s wonderful to be putting together a showcase of Nyoongar art.

“I’ve seen some of the works and they’re breathtaking.”

Ms Croft said she’s looking forward to working with AGWA in her new position.

“I’m going to Canberra with a great deal of optimism and I’m really considering what’s been done with the national Indigenous collection and broaden the good work that’s already been done,” she said.

“I’ll be looking at new media, digital media and photo media, and I’ll just continue to learn because it’s important to me to feel that there is no stopping point.”

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