The National Gallery of Victoria has released a number of online resources for viewers to enjoy current exhibitions from the comfort of their own home. Marking Time forms part of the current online exhibition program, celebrating a diverse range of ancient and contemporary practices from artists across Australia. The online journey through the exhibition is facilitated via a virtual tour, videos, essays and student online learning tools.
While the experience of navigating an exhibition through an interactive virtual tour is relatively new, the NGV has digitally rendered the artworks and gallery space with a high level of detail. Making up for the inability to read traditional didactic panels, the viewer is able to access further context and information for the surrounding artworks through a series of short videos from senior curator of Indigenous Art Judith Ryan, discreetly linked within each of the four rooms.
The first room, From rock face to bark, features a number of drawings and carvings of spirit-beings on wet season bark shelters. A series of intricate dashes and lines carefully articulate the slender spirits who are depicted alongside animals, spears and other sacred objects. These spirit-beings were typically drawn onto rock faces and are believed to be some of the earliest known figurative works. By sharing these sorcery images, the viewer is introduced to the sacred belief system of Indigenous Australians.
Moving from the display of spirit-being drawings and into the second space, From ground and body to board, we uncover a very different narrative of Country. The 1970s marked a dynamic change across the Western Desert, whereby sacred signs and stories moved from ephemeral surfaces such as earth, rock face and bark, onto more permanent materials like composition board and canvas. These non-figurative works explore a colourful chromaticity made available through the use of enamel and synthetic polymer paint. Their bold presence declares their value as art rather than artefact.
From street to gallery marks a shift towards a more modern interpretation of Indigenous iconography using new technologies and contemporary concepts. In this gallery space we see the neon signs of Reko Rennie and Brook Andrew, positioned close-by multimedia artist Josh Muir. Hannah Brontë’s music video Umma’s Tongue – molten at 6000° adorns the back wall, perpendicular to Gordon Hookey’s satirical triptych Sacred nation, scared nation, indoctrination. This third gallery space curates a powerful body of work that critiques social and political issues through a post-colonial gaze.
The atmosphere of exhibition changes once more as we move into the fourth room, which celebrates a series of paintings by senior Warlpiri women from Lajamanu – a small town located in the Northern Territory. The display of these paintings acknowledges the challenges faced by female Indigenous artists, who were rarely given the opportunity to produce and exhibit artworks prior to the 1980s. This collection of paintings renders permanent the body designs used within women’s ceremonies. Through repetition of patterns, symbols and colour palette, the artworks create a feeling of union and harmony throughout their shared stories.
Marking Time presents a multifaceted exhibition that explores a diverse range of Indigenous artworks from the NGV collection. While it is difficult to translate the qualities of art through digitalisation, navigating the exhibition through the interactive virtual tour and insightful videos was both an enjoyable and an educational experience.
4 stars out of 5
Marking Time A curated body of Indigenous artworks from the NGV collection
Curated by Judith Ryan
17 August 2019-14 June 2020
The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Free admission / NGV Virtual Tours