Artivist, observes and reports on developments in the Bali and Indonesian art scenes
The Northern Center for Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Darwin, Northern Territory (NT) on Friday, May 15 became the first Australian art gallery to reopen its doors to the public.
Switching the Arts Back on - priNT 2020, a group exhibition of work by printmakers from the NT, Australia and Germany, opened midday Friday to an enthusiastic Darwin art community who during the event maintained safe social distancing.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of Australian art and cultural institutions when the strict nationwide lockdown began on March 23. And while many artists have reveled in this period of isolation, remaining busy in their studios, critical facets of the art infrastructure, namely galleries, museums and institutions have had to initiate solutions to stay relevant to the community.
“The NCCA was given approval for the exhibition by the NT Government and the Federal Government as the Northern Territory has had no coronavirus deaths. There has been no community transmission and the smallest number of affected persons in Australia, all of who came from overseas or interstate,” said Colin McDonald QC, a member of the board and former chair of the NCCA. “The NCCA board and the curator Mats Unden were proactive in organizing this exhibition, timing the reopening strategically in following with the decision of the government to relieve some of the restrictions.”
“Twenty-nine people attended the opening in accordance with the government limits set on social gatherings and were delighted to be participants in this historic event,” added McDonald who said that many other people also wished to attend the opening.
The NCCA reopening is a positive and significant sign that Australia has embarked upon the long process to returning society to some sense of normality, and that some art institutions during this period of uncertainty have been sensitive and dynamic in their response to the government’s outlook on easing restrictions.
“During the period of lockdown and social isolation, we are reminded of the enduring importance of art and artists in our society,” stated NCCA chairman Alastair Shields during his welcome speech at Friday’s opening. “Art is the creation of our imagination and our freedom of expression and has been a harmonizing influence on societies over history. Art has a vital role in maintaining confidence in our world today.”
Dubbed "the hottest gallery in the world", because patrons often sweltered in the gallery during the notoriously hot Northern Territory wet season days, the NCCA opening also celebrated the occasion by switching on its new air-conditioning system. In doing so, the gallery realized a long-held dream to make its venue more comfortable to the public while enjoying art. NT minister for the arts, the Honourable Lauren Moss, officially switched on the new air conditioning after her opening remarks.
“Switching the Arts Back on - priNT 2020 highlights the important role printmaking techniques play in many visual artists' practices,” said curator Mats Unden. “The show features an array of innovative printmaking techniques and approaches to this ancient art form such as linocuts, etchings, screen and silkscreen prints, monoprints, woodblock prints, relief prints and Mokulito (wood lithography).”
The subject matter exhibited includes landscapes and abstract pictures, along with collages and installation works. A highlight is a series of six sociopolitical-themed screen prints by Franck Gohier that ridicule the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his stance on issues such as coal mining, working-class voters and a free press in Australia. Aboriginal artist Naminnapu Maymuru-White also exhibits a series of screen prints.
The next exhibition at NCCA running from mid-July to mid-August 2020 will be Artist’s Camp Retrospective Exhibition, a retrospective of works by Indonesian contemporary artists from the ‘Artists Camp’, an ongoing project that has a history dating back to 1978.
The project, run by the NCCA with the support of the government of the Northern Territory, invites Indonesian and international artists to the pristinely beautiful and culturally rich Top End of the Northern Territory to interpret aboriginal culture and the landscape.
The exhibition will include works by Made Budhiana, Wayan Wirawan, Ni Nyoman Sani, Gede Gunada, Suryani, Made Sudibia, Dewa Rata Yoga, Dalbo Suarimbawa and Australian artist Rupert Bertheras along with renown Aboriginal artists from the Top End.
Switching the Arts Back on - priNT 2020 continues through until June 15. (kes)
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