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Aboriginal Art essay

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Discuss the work of one Aboriginal artist working in a contemporary urban context. Caroline Presbury 'nothing is nothing' by alan powell You knew it was there Not a sound or a sight or anything you could point to Still, you could name it You stepped around it and lay under it It came closer and you watched it pass You told me to wait and let it speak for itself But I never heard it I whispered your words and stood still, straining for anything Then you laughed and I lost it You walked further through it and picked it up You ran it through your fingers and brushed it off you The wind snatched it from you, taking you with it And I followed still You said there were traces here, and I stopped Then there was something I looked at you and your eyes told me I was right Nothing is nothing In February 1999 Clifford Possum was flown to Sydney to identify some paintings exhibited under his name. By this time he was 66 years of age and universally recognized as the most famous living Aboriginal painter and one of the Modern Aboriginal Masters. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was born in 1932 on Napperby Station. He worked as a stockman on the cattle stations in and around his traditional country and over time, through travel and story-telling he developed a vast knowledge of the Dreaming Trails of the land north of the western McDonnell Ranges. ...read more.


Dreaming, Bushfire II, of 1972 as well as Bushfire at Irpulku and Man's Love Story of 1973. At the same time, effects of superimposition mean that these paintings play a kind of peek-a-boo effect between floating, overlaid areas and Dreaming landscapes. The effect is like zeroing in and out of focus, as though one peeks through clouds of floating dots (suggesting either ephemeral effects of atmosphere or the passage of fire over a landscape) allowing one to gaze onto a Dreaming site below. Possum's 1976 paintings, Warlugulong, are "full of exquisite layering, subtle surfaces, surprises, delights and endless richness." (Adelaide Review, 2002) The paintings exhibits two attitudes to spatial-landscape organization that sets Possum apart from his contemporaries. The first was his realization that one series of events was "laid down on top of another in the Dreaming." (Vivien Johnson - Art Gallery of South Australia, 2003) The second innovation is related to the fact that he "perceived the parallel between the abstract diagrams of ancestral passage in these traditional expressive forms of his culture and the maps of the Europeans." (Johnson). Warlugulong is regarded as a key work in terms of narrative complexity, as it was the first time many different legends were told or mapped on one canvas, each story layered one upon the other. ...read more.


Clifford Possum captures the expectation of this bi-cultural process in his work, Two Goanna Men, of 2001, which features a double-headed skeletal figure simultaneously facing opposite directions. It is the counterpoint to Dead Spirit at Napperby, also of 2001, in which two skeleton torsos face one another. Between the two possibilities-facing one another directly and facing in opposite directions simultaneously-there can be no guarantees and no simple dissolution of profound cultural quandaries. We remain aware of this uncomfortable double-headed quality in the most elegantly composed of Clifford Possum's work - aware of its productively unassimilable quality at the very same time that his great formal and compositional dexterity makes traditional knowledge and expression palpable for a non-traditional audience. As each innovative divergence in his work treaded precariously, their force was to negotiate overlapping, but disjunctive arenas without guarantee. To say these things, to make these qualifications about the critical framework for the evaluation of indigenous art, does not mean disparaging a genuine achievement. It is to herald Clifford Possum's art as a genuine feat of engaged critical-cultural experimentation-the achievement of dealing with dislocating effects, and even producing them, in negotiating cultural re-assertion-rather than a superhuman achievement of self-definition. This is perhaps the most offensive part of the plagiarism of Possum's work; it disregards the deep truths and meanings in aboriginal art and the idea of art as storytelling. 'Nothing is nothing' to Possum everything has meaning. ...read more.

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