Of all the exhibitions I went to in Sydney over the past week, it was “They are Meditating” that inspired me the most. It’s an exhibition of Aboriginal bark paintings that were given to the Museum of Contemporary Art by the Arnott’s Biscuit company.
They’re more contemporary than any non-Aboriginal Australian art, but they also have thousands of years of tradition in them. You don’t walk away from them feeling hollow or cheated or confused as they’re real, they have meaning.
I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the paintings, but I bought the “They are Meditating” catalogue and scanned a few of my favorites.
This first Aboriginal bark painting is by an artist called Yirawala, painted in 1970. It’s a smallish painting that almost had me mesmerized. Not many paintings have affected me like this little beauty..
Title: Yirritja moiety divided into “skins” by Maralatj, 1970
Ochres on bark, 66.5 x 28cm
This next bark painting is by Roy Riwa. The crabs made me think of Picasso.
Artist: Roy Riwa
Title: Crab Totems, 1970s
Ochres on bark, 69.5 x 30.4cm
The last Aboriginal painting that I scanned is by Fred Nganganharrilil. It shows why ‘decorative’ shouldn’t be a bad word in art.
Artist: Fred Nganganharrilil
Title: Flying Fox Dance, 1970s
Ochres and synthetic polymer on bark, 88.8 x 44cm