Monday, July 25, 2016

The Dreaming

Ithaca, New York, July 24, 2016
stain glass window

From my top floor in Ithaca, we look out over a garden through to trees and other homes and businesses and I like to take a few photos through the stain glass window when I'm there.

We are having a little family re-union and then all of us go up to see the exhibition at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art that features modern Australian Aboriginal art - which is a tradition now carried on with materials on canvas rather than sand painting, carving wood or applying colors to the body ( although these practices may continue today they are not included as examples in this show).  I have seen a few exhibitions of artwork from these Australians from time to time, and the artists included in this show called "No Boundaries" are considered to be the most creative and widely recognized for their art.

"No Boundaries" Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Painting
The Herbert Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University

If you have never seen modern Aboriginal Art you are in for a treat, and it might be possible that you could mistake this art for paintings by an American Abstract Expressionist like Richard Pousette-Dart for example.  Looking over the balcony into the first floor of the show, one can see paintings on the wall and floor and they have stylistic similarities (lines and dots of paint are frequently applied ) and there is also an introductory video running at the museum that shows a painting session in progress amidst the scrubby land where the artists call home.  In the video you see a group engaged like a quilting bee - people sitting, talking, and painting on their canvases.  There is a market for this work and the art dealers that set them up with materials are eager to take the freshly finished paintings off to the next show and sale.

Mr. Tommy Mitchell, "Warlpapuka", 2009
Synthetic Polymer paint on canvas, 40" x 60"

The artists artwork might resemble the patterns on your finger tips when you make a finger-print, or the patterns could be paths found on a topographic map.  In fact there is a description on the wall in the museum that suggests the paintings might be a kind of map that would help lead one to food and water.  There is a hallucinogenic quality to these paintings, not necessarily because of their colors which are quite restrained by Western standards, but because of the pulse-like repetitions and wave patterns these artists prefer.

"Wiringurru Painting" by Tjumpo Tjapanangka

One of my favorite paintings from this show of Aboriginal Art had forms that looked like tendrils- the little leaders that grow from plants seemingly searching for light and nourishment.  This painting is made by the artist Boxer Milner Tjampitjin who gives it the title of "Oolaign", painted in 2000,(using synthetic polymer paints on canvas) his composition is a ladder of these tendril-like forms painted with a fresh application of little dots of color on a black ground.

"Oolaign"  by Boxer Milner Tjampitjin

If you read the catalog written for this exhibition the interpretation of what is being represented in this painting is definitely related to the forces of water, the way it can shape the land and effect the lives of the people living there.  Water is the source of life.

Paintings by Ngarra

Though the artists we see here work in a varied style that never becomes purely representational, the art is suggestive and one can make associations with the images as presented.  The artist known as Ngarra has a suite of paintings on paper that could be colorful diagrams of social interactions, or games people play.  Another one of the artists featured in this show, Mr. Tommy Mitchell, constructs more elaborate compositions using a wider array of colors, and these paintings can rival some of the best artwork done anywhere in the last century.  Self-taught painters- mostly instinctive painters, such as these artists really give you something to think about 
 when contemplating visual culture.

"Crossbow" by Matthew Schreiber

Around the corner from the Aboriginal Art is an installation of laser lights by the artist Matthew Schreiber which he calls "Crossbow".  Stepping inside a darkened room the laser lights resemble the strings of an instrument.  You interact with these lights if you move around the room.  There are people in the room with you but you will be concentrating on the red light lines drawn by this weightless material, and needless to say- it is a spectacle.

Japanese prints by Kuniyoshi

Also on view at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum is a collection of things Japanese, including prints, decorative arts, photos and calligraphy.  This is one of the attractions to the museum - it has a fine and varied collection of the arts of Asia, and a most enjoyable show to go and see, and savor.