17 October, 2005

Fluent - Venice 1997

Fluent - The Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 1997.

"Fluent" celebrates the survival of the Aboriginal culture and reflects the creativity of Australia's regional and urban settings. "Fluent" suggests the aspect of fluidity in the work of all three of the artists: EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE, YVONNE KOOLMATRIE and JUDY WATSON. The sense of fluidity is evident in the formal aspects of the artists' work and metaphorically as they pay homage to the continuation of traditional Aboriginal Culture.

EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE passed away last year in her eighties. Following the custom of the Aboriginal people, the full name of the artist that passes on should not be spoken out of respect for the deceased and their family. The substitute, KWEMENTYAI (meaning "no name") and/or the artist's skin (clan) name are used instead.

KNGWARREYE is considered one of the most significant Australian contemporary artists. In her youth, KNGWARREYE lived a traditional lifestyle in the outback on a cattle station. In her sixties, she was introduced to "non traditional" (mainstream) art practices. Although she originally used batik as medium, she eventually (a decade later) moved into painting on canvas. KNGWARREYE, known primarily for her fields of shimmering dots, began to make stripe paintings in 1993. There is a strong spiritual analogy between these stripe paintings and the traditional body painting "awelye," yam dreaming cycles of the KNGWARREYE people. They capture the immediacy and rhythm of "painting up" (on the body) for a ceremonial performance.

YVONNE KOOLMATRIE is one of Australia's leading weavers. She works in the rare form of the NGARRINDJERI weaving traditional to the Riverland country of South Australia. This form of weaving was originally intended to exist in the world of water as traps for eels. These forms are made from sedge grass reeds from the River Murray, selected for their fragrance and color. When immersed in water, these forms release their fragrance and become malleable once again.

This form of weaving was almost extinct due to colonization by 1982 when YVONNE KOOLMATRIE was taught her art by the last remaining TRADITION LADY which then qualified her in turn to become a TRADITION LADY. She now travels throughout Australia and teaches the art to those who wish to know it.

JUDY WATSON refers to her work as "memories that wash over me." Watson was raised in an urban setting and trained in a formal academic system but a personal quest led her back to the remote Northwest Queensland of her grandmother's WAANYI people. She learned the oral histories of her people that inspire her work while fishing on the slow moving river of the region. Her abstract narratives are about those traditions and the hidden stories of the Australian colonial experience.

The highly textured surfaces of her paintings have a fluidity of movement that is reminiscent of undulating waters and the vast expanse of Australia's interior lands. Watson chose to make a specific body of work for the Biennale that reflects these concerns. Her abstractions reflect the city of Venice where a myriad of cultures meet and the ever-present power of the surrounding water.

Hetti Perkins, Brenda L.Croft and Victoria Lynn make up the curatorial team that is responsible for the exhibition.


some other country pavilions from the same site

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