The Finkelstein Files: What Makes Contemporary Aboriginal Art?

What Makes Contemporary Aboriginal Art ?

The contradiction of Aboriginal art is that it is both timeless and contemporary at the same time. This duality challenges the Western understanding of the progress of culture and ideas. Since Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous living culture in the world , her artwork has existed for 40,000 years and is rooted in the human pre-history. Through songs, rituals, dances, storytelling, symbols and meaningful patterns that are being passed on, Aboriginal groups have managed to preserve their culture for thousands of years. When a group of elder desert men first started to paint their cultural heritage using paper and canvas, that was the birth of the movement that much influenced Aboriginal communities and Australian art in general. For the majority of Westerners, this was the first encounter with Aboriginal culture in general. Having a timeless connection to the pre-history and the first inhabitants of the Australian landscape, Aboriginal art has also been perceived as an innovative and iconic art form inherent to Australia.

 

Gloria Petyarre, Bush Medicine Leaves, Acrylic on Linen, 204 x 139 cm.

The Origins of Aboriginal Contemporary Art

The first desert works emerged in Papunya in 1971. A white Australian teacher and art worker Geffrey Bardon who was working in a remote community in Central Australia started an art program with children and elder men in the village. When elder men started to translate their knowledge of traditional folklore onto canvas, this was the birth of the contemporary art movement. Soon after, eleven men have formed a cooperative called Papunya Tula Artists, and the movement started to generate a widespread interest across rural and remote Aboriginal Australia.  Over subsequent decade as many Aboriginal communities contributed with their specific culture and knowledge, these differences developed into different pictorial languages and regional styles emphisizing their diversity. These initial works that include pieces by now famous Aboriginal artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, are today considered as the foundation of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement and are accounted as very valuable. The art critic and writer Robert Hughes has described the rise of contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art as ‘the latest great art movement of the twentieth century’.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Narripi Worm Dreaming, ADG:845, 1997, 125 x 96cm.

The Symbol As a Language

Since Aborigines didn’t have a history of writing, they have a long tradition of communicating their stories and heritage graphically through symbols. This ancient iconography has transferred into contemporary art works. Often reflecting the spiritual traditions, cultural practices and sociopolitical circumstances of indigenous people, stories and symbols vary widely among the diverse Aboriginal cultures. They range from ones derived from the hunting and tracking background portraying animals and humans with marks they leave or certain clan patterns to aspects of their ‘Dreaming’. The Dreamtime is a translation of the Creation time for Aboriginal people, and it provides their identity and the connection to the land. Artists often need a permission to paint certain traditional stories, and this right is inherited.

Sally Gabori, DulkaWarngiid, 2007, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Canvas, 195 x 610cm. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria.

The Aboriginal Art Today

Contemporary indigenous artists have won many of Australia’s most prominent art prizes not only reserved for indigenous art. Also, Aboriginal artists have represented Australia in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 1997. Today, Aboriginal art is internationally acclaimed and recognized as fine art. It ranges across a wide variety of mediums from works on paper and canvas to fiber, glass and printmaking. Rooted in traditional iconography, the works are often remarkably modern in design and color. Some of the most prominent names include Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa,Emily Kngwarreye, Lorna Napurrula Fencer, Christine Napanangka Michaels, Rover Thomas and Gloria Petyarre. There has been a number of Aboriginal artists, such as Michael CookWilliam King Jungala or his daughter Sarrita King who have developed a very unique contemporary style combining their Aboriginal heritage with practices and techniques closer to the Western contemporary art. Albert Namatjira, one of the pioneers of Contemporary Aboriginal art, produced western style landscapes different to the traditional Aboriginal art style. On the other hand, there is a number of artists who ethnically and culturally identify as indigenous, but have adopted global art practices and recognizably Western style. Labeling them as Aboriginal artists have caused political controversies and raised questions on conventional notions of what Aboriginal art is.

Sarrita King, Ancestors, Jap 010912, Acrylic on Linen, 90 x 60 cm.

Sarrita King, Water, Jap-008727, Acrylic on Linen, 230 x 140 cm.

Labels and Controversies

It has been widely discussed whether the indigenous art has been commodified by the West and the commercial art world. It has been even suggested that using terms as ‘Aboriginal art’ is intrinsically racist in terms of labeling Aboriginality as ‘other’ compared to the Western norm.  Many contemporary artists who happen to be of Aboriginal descent refuse to be categorized and labeled simply for their ethnicity. This issue has gained great publicity when in 1990s Australia’s most renowned international artist Tracey Moffatt refused to present at the exhibition exclusively Aboriginal, and more recently when acclaimed contemporary artist Richard Bell was awarded the National Aboriginal & Torre Strait Islander Art Award in 2003. It seems that it might be the time that the Western community develops a more sophisticated understanding of the diversity of artists of indigenous descent.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Bush Yam Dreaming, 1994, inscribed verso: #551, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Canvas, 183.0 x 122.0 cm.

Aboriginal Art in the Art Market

In 2007, the painting Earth’s Creation by Emily Kngwarreye became the first Aboriginal artwork sold for more than $ 1 million. Her use of dots reaches its crescendo in this phase, with dots merging, separating and dominating in various configurations. They fuse together to create planes of colour structured into mobile shapes, or are choreographed to form lines that suggest dance movements. In earlier works they are used to form fine veils that shield secret markings or create shimmering effects reminiscent of the cosmos. Emily’s palette was largely determined by the changing seasons. Dusty browns appear in her canvases during the dry season, and greens appear after the rains, which Emily referred to as ‘green time’. When wildflowers carpeted the desert, she used a spectrum of yellows. The visual intensity of these paintings recalls the work of French colourists Sonia and Robert Delaunay, or even Claude Monet. Yet Emily knew nothing of their work and, while these French modernists explored pure colour as form and subject, Emily’s only subject throughout her life was her ancestral home of Alhalkere. Emily’s “green-time” canvases attest to an unshakable connection between body and country, one that evades iconography yet demands to be felt.

Only a few months after, an epic work Warlugulong by Clifford Possum was sold for $ 2.4 million in Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne. After the initial boom, the market for these works started to struggle due to the issues with authenticity, ownership, exploitation and Australia’s cultural heritage regulation. On the other hand, the first ever sale of Aboriginal art at Sotheby’s London in June 2015 was a huge success showing a sign of renewed interest in this movement. When choosing a piece, the great importance should be placed on the style, medium, status of the artist and age of the artist. With five works being sold for over $100,000, the auction brought in over $ 2 million for 75 lots. As the price of the pieces is rising again, buying Aboriginal art could be a wise investment.

Thierry B Fine Art proudly offers Aboriginal art and may be viewed in our gallery stockroom. Gallery hours are: Monday – Saturday 11am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm, or by appointment on : +613404861438.

Vicki xx

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The Finkelstein Files: 13 Reasons Why Original Art In The Home Is As Important As A Bed

Above: Patricia Heaslip, Ether, Oil on Linen, 183 x 183cm, Private Residence, Malvern, Australia.

13 REASONS WHY ORIGINAL ART IN THE HOME IS AS IMPORTANT AS A BED

Having original art in the home is vital to your well being. Art is a key piece of furniture for many reasons and yet it is sometimes put on the back burner in comparison to other home objects. This list is dedicated to the understanding of importance of art from perspectives of interior design, well being, social atmosphere, creating a mood in the home, and more. One quote that stands out about the importance of original art is the following, “You would never put fake books on your bookshelf, so why would you put fake art on your walls?”

For all of the following reasons, you can find the perfect work for your home or office on our online store (we can ship to you!) here.

Above: Patricia Heaslip, Untitled, Oil on Linen, 183 x 183cm, Private Residence, Brighton, Australia.

1. Creates Mood 

Brain scans have revealed that looking at works of art trigger a surge of dopamine into the same area of the brain that registers desire, pleasure, and romantic love (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-the-wild-things-are/201109/love-desire-and-art). Romantic, sublime landscapes provoke contemplation of nature and purity. Such works then create a mood of peace and are good for relaxation rooms such as the bedroom.

Above: Michael Whitehead, Ever After, Synthetic Polymer Paint & Mixed Media on Linen, 80 x 270cm, Private Residence, Toorak, Australia.

2. Adds Personal Character to the Home 

We all love to express ourselves, be it through clothing, accessories, social media – the list goes on! Original art in the home is a perfect way to express your artistic and aesthetic interests in a way different from most, for original artworks are one of a kind.

Above: (left) Phonsay, Under My Umbrella, (right) Bubble Gum Dream, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 122 x 122cm, Private Residence, South Yarra, Australia.

3. Makes Memories

Buying an original work of art is an experience. For whatever reason, you were drawn to a specific piece (or multiple). You may have seen it at a show opening, had a nice trip to the ice cream shop before hand. Whatever happened leading up to/during/after the purchase of a meaningful original work will be remembered every time you see it. This will not happen with a poster from Ikea.

Above: Thierry B, Darwinism Series, Triptych, Synthetic Polymer paint on Line,  183 x 152cm x 3 panels. Private Rseidence, Caulfield, Australia.

4. Provides a Colour Palette 

When rooms have a lot of colours, or many shades of the same colour, it can become overwhelming. An original work of art is a beautiful, meaningful way to tie everything together and create a general focal point.

Above: Thierry B, Next Chapter, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 183 x 183cm, Private Collection, South Yarra, Australia.

5. Makes a Room Feel Finished 

When walls are empty, a room does not necessarily look bad, but by no means does it look finished. Rooms with empty walls are functional rooms in a house. Rooms with original art work are comfortable rooms in a home.

Above: Michelle Breton, Untitled, Mixed Media on Canvas, 152 x 152cm, Private Residence, Kooyong, Australia. Styling: Lisa Gole Interiors.

 

 

6. Inspires and Fosters Creativity 

This one is simple – in rooms with no art, artistic expression is lacking and therefore the need and want for creativity is not very prominent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, original artworks foster creativity, expression, artistic inspiration. This is particularly important in homes with children as being surrounded by artwork will allow creative thinking. This idea is expanded on in reason 11.

Above: Justin Audrins, Talking Heads, Oil on Canvas, 137.5 x 198cm. Private Residence, Toorak, Australia.

7. Conversation Starter 

As mentioned in reason 2, hanging original art in your home is a way of expressing oneself. That being said, guests will always be curious about the choice of artwork, the story, have questions about the artist, etc. It is a way to show off your art collection while having passionate conversations with house guests.

Above: Thierry B, Euphoria Series, Synthetic Polymer paint on Linen, 183 x 183cm. Private Residence, Melbourne, Australia. Styling: David Hicks Design.

8. Supports Artists 

One of the most important things about buying original artwork is that you are supporting an artist’s career. Each time you have a look at a work in your home, it provides a feel-good emotion that you are assisting an artist in achieving the success and recognition they deserve.

Above: Michael Whitehead, Things Forgotten, Synthetic Polymer Paint & Mixed Media on Canvas, 120 x 150cm.

9. It is an Investment 

Building off of reason 8, not only does owning original work in the home allow you to support artists’ careers, but it is also an investment. These artworks can be passed down through family and friends, be shared with loved ones for many years all while increasing in worth. This is never something that will be achieved with a $12 print from Kmart.

Above: Thierry B, Blush, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Canvas, 122 x 91.5cm.

10. Creates a Livable Environment 

Art can make rooms that are not necessarily “home-y” become comfortable working and living environments. A home office, for example, can transform from a place of work and business to one of relaxation and productivity all the with addition of an original work of art. Attached is an article explaining how artwork in office spaces improves employee productivity (http://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhendricks/2015/01/12/can-office-artwork-influence-employee-productivity/#243c119d2c44).

 

Above: Thierry B, Unlimited, 183 x 183cm & Between the Lines Series, 122 x 91.5cm, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen. Private Residence, Albert park, Australia.

11. Keeps the Brain Active 

Art is very conceptual, artists use it as a medium to express personal thought, political or social issues, and to make us as viewers think. Some people do quizzes or crossword puzzles to keep their brain active, but another way to do so is to own original artwork in the home, to just sit, look, and think.

Above: Michelle Breton, Collioure, Mixed Media on Canvas, 117.5 x 203cm. Private Collection, Caulfield Australia.

12. Relaxation 

In a busy, fast-paced world that demands speed and productivity, home should be a place of relaxation. Coming home from a busy day at work to sit on your couch and stare at a TV or a blank wall is not as recharging or relaxing as enjoying an artwork purchased with the means to create a positive mood.

Above: Thierry B, Pieces of You, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 122 x 91.5cm. Private Residence, Toorak, Australia.

13. Curating Your Own Gallery is Fun! 

Last but certainly not least, curating a gallery is fun! Attending show openings, going to galleries, chatting with artists even, it is a fun experience! After a while you will start to notice a theme, in subject matter, colour, concept, etc. Playing with moods, composition, placement in the home, of all these reasons why to have art in the home, let’s not forget the fact that it is simply something fun to do.

As potential collector and client of Thierry B Fine Art, we are excited to offer Autralia-wide complimentary delivery to your home or business address. To place your order, email art@thierrybfineart.com or call directly on: +613 9827 7756.

Thierry B Fine Art is located at 473 Malvern Rd, South Yarra.

Gallery hours: Monday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm or by appointment: 0404 861 438.

 

The Finkelstein Files: The Fine Art of Investment

 

Richard Lewer
Untitled #27 (Tax Time Again) (2016)
Langridge pigmented ink on sandpaper, 28cm by 23cm

Thierry B Fine Art showcases the Abstract paintings and sculpture from over a dozen Australian artists.

Prices start from $4,950 upto $55,000. The gallery also includes a custom made frame for the painting, and complimentary delivery and installation.

Master painter and designer, Thierry B, will also scope your home or business space and recommend the ideal proportions.  We provide a turn-key solution for our valued clients – where guesswork has been eliminated for you.

Jasper Knight, Private Charter Wharf Kirrabilly, Enamel on Canvas, 183 x 183cm, $22,000 GST Incl.

Michael Fox, a leading Melbourne tax accountant specialising in the arts explains, “The rules changed about two years ago regarding buying art for your business,” explains Michael Fox. “Today in Australia it is much easier to gain tax breaks for buying works of under $20,000 than it ever was before,” he says. Fox who helps people with their tax every day says one of the big loopholes people can exploit, is the “Tony’s Tradies” – a Small Business raft of tax measures, which allows small businesses to claim their expenses up to $20,000. “If you have an ABN, then under the small business act you can claim the entire sum of that purchase up to the tune of $20,000 each; A small business meaning turnover of less than $2 million dollars annually.

“This rule means you can buy as many individual art works as you like worth just under $20,000 each and claim them as a legitimate business expense. For example if you wanted you could buy five artworks for $19,990 each and claim a tax write-off of close to $100,000 by buying those 5 works. “I don’t think the government really intended it to be a tax break for the arts industry. At the time it was introduced so that tradespeople could claim the expense of a utility vehicle. “It is not that widely understood,” Fox says.

 

Patricia Heaslip, Landlines, 29016, Oil on Linen, 183 x 183cm, $15,000 GST Incl.

Thierry B, New Chapter, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 183 x 183cm, $22,000 GST Incl

Gallery Manager and curator, Vicki Finkelstein explains, “that while some people might be intimidated by going to a gallery and asking prices, new collectors should never be scared to talk about the budget they have in mind for buying art. “We can guide people to incredibly collectible museum quality work for under $20,000. We often work to very tight briefs for offices, homes and new collectors. Interior designers and architects for example will always come to us with a budget in mind, so we’re accustomed to taking clients through our stockroom to find the right thing,” Finkelstein says.

Phonsay, (left), Under My Umbrella, (right), Bubble-Gum Dream, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 122 x 122cm, $ 8,800 GST Incl each.

Thierry B, Effervesence, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 122 x 168cm, $11,000 GST Incl

Are you developing a corporate culture in your business? Are you running a business in a cut throat industry? Wanting to attract great clients and retain incredible staff? Then buy art. Not only will you claim the expense of making your office look cool, but if you are in charge, at the top end of town, you can curate a serious corporate collection.

Once you amass a cool art collection you can tour the work or open it to the public. At the top end of town the ultimate, is when these companies appoint someone as a curator and actually put together a decent collection. Then those sorts of exhibitions can go touring around the country. Granted with the name of the company attached, but still, it’s a form or a good will and very clever marketing.

 

Geoffrey Dyer, Koonya Bluff, 2007, Oil on Linen, 183 x 244cm, $ 65,000 GST Incl

Overseas this is common practice. Here in Australia companies like Wesfarmers, BresicWhitney, Allens and SBS all have great corporate collections the public can visit. Collecting art for your company isn’t just about tax savings or marketing. There have been several studies that show people who work in environments with nice artwork tend to be more productive.

Resident Curator at Allens Linklaters Maria Poulos can concur. Their collection was formed under the direction of Hugh Jamieson, a former partner at Allens, who left a legacy of 900 modern paintings. When he retired in 1995 he left behind a collection that has become central to the company’s vision and values, a collection that has continued to expand.

“The Collection represents an important part of Allens’ corporate identity and its connection to a much wider cultural world. In another sense, it’s a sign of good citizenship and creates a ‘civilised workplace’,” Poulos explains.

Thierry B, Blush, Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen, 122 x 91.5cm, $9,900 GST Incl

 

Michelle Breton, Carnavonesque, 2017, Mixed Media on Canvas, 183 x 183cm, $12,000 GST Incl

Today, corporate collections are generally no longer seen simply as a way of decorating a company’s foyer, boardroom or offices. Instead, they are seen as a marketing tool that assists in defining a corporation’s brand or reputation. Many of the organisations that focus on collecting contemporary art are in competitive industries where it is necessary to project an image of being a forward thinking, dynamic and progressive market leader in order to attract the best staff and clients.

Thierry B, Euphoria Series – Yves Blue, 2016, 170 x 250cm.

Image courtesy of Private Collection, Melbourne, Australia. Photo Credit: The Design Files.

Shannan Whitney who is the CEO and Founder of BresicWhitney has watched his corporate collection grow considerably since he purchased a Bill Henson for his office back in 2003. “Art was introduced consciously quite early on. It was an important mechanism to connect customers with our brand within a physical space. It was also a nice connection piece for our staff,” Whitney says. Today he points out, that in all four of his offices, art plays a strong, but silent role. “Firstly it’s unexpected which is great. Secondly like all art is supposed to do, it prompts a response and reaction, which is valuable and finally I think it has been an effective in helping people connect our brand with our vision,” he says. Maria Poulos echoes this sentiment at Allens, sighting the impact on staff as ‘positive’. “Lawyers often comment on the art as a great conversation starter with new clients – a handy way to break the ice. Even if someone remarks unfavourably, ‘How can you put up with that?’, art has stimulated discussion and a different way of looking at things,” she says.

Michael Whitehead, Things Forgotten, 2017, Synthetic Polymer Paint & Mixed Media on Canvas, 120 x 150cm, $ 7,700 GST Incl.

Thierry B Fine Art is located at 473 Malvern Rd, South Yarra.

Gallery hours: Monday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm or by appointment: 0404861438.

Vicki xx