MAY 15, 2018 (Charlottesville, VA) — Two of Charlottesville’s most dynamic visual art spaces have collaborated on sister exhibitions of Indigenous Australian art that will bring one of Australia’s leading artists to the city to discuss her artwork. Ngunguni: Old Techniques Remain Strong is a series of paintings on bark from the West Daly river region of northern Australia, while Ngerringkrrety: One Voice, Many Stories features vibrant paintings by the region’s leading art rockstar, Regina Pilawuk Wilson. Regina and her son Henry and granddaughter Leaya will visit Charlottesville May 22 – 26 and there will be several opportunities to hear from them.
Regina Pilawuk Wilson is a Ngan’gikurrungurr woman who has always lived in the West Daly region of northern Australia. In 1969, she left the local Catholic mission with her husband and founded the new community of Peppimenarti. Since her husband’s death, she has been a matriarch of the community, and in the early 2000s she emerged as one of Australia’s leading contemporary painters. In 2003 she won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous painting prize and her work has since been collected by leading cultural institutions around the world, including the National Gallery of Australia and the British Museum. She explains, “These paintings are a symbol of our cultural legacy. We need to keep this legacy strong.”
The timing of these exhibitions coincides with Regina Wilson’s inclusion in the major touring exhibition Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia which opens at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. on May 29, 2018
The paintings in all three exhibitions draw on her and other artists’ deep connection to place and the cultural knowledge associated with it. Last year, the local art center Durrmu Arts contacted the Kluge-Ruhe Collection to request images and information on their cultural materials held in the museum’s permanent collection. These artworks were from the mid-1950s, when artists began committing their ancient designs to bark. Later on, painting on bark dwindled, but according to elder Timothy Dumoo, “These were painted when we were kids at school. We witnessed them being painted. We need to learn more about it. We need to take it back to the communities and research further. These works are unknown to me but in time we can find the story.” Inspired by images of the works in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, the elders of Peppimenarti have begun instructing a new generation of artists in preparing, and painting on, bark. The exhibition at Kluge-Ruhe, Ngunguni: Old Techniques Remain Strong, combines the earlier works with two bark paintings made especially for this show, which represent the first significant production of bark paintings in West Daly in over forty years. It will also feature a short film by the award winning Australian director Cassie de Colling, in collaboration with Durrmu Arts.
“Part of our mission is to make people think about Aboriginal art as contemporary art and to engage contemporary Indigenous artists with the Charlottesville community. Reaching out to Second Street Gallery with the idea of a solo exhibition of Regina’s work was a natural decision,” says Kluge-Ruhe Curator Henry Skerritt. Kristen Chiacchia, Second Street Gallery’s Executive Director and Chief Curator, jumped on the idea. “This exhibition truly represents our aim of providing access to contemporary art in all of its many forms. As Second Street endeavors to inspire new ways of thinking through interaction with artistic expression, viewers will quickly come to understand that contemporary art is as expansive and inclusive and as the world itself.”
The exhibition at Second Street Gallery, Ngerringkrrety: One Voice, Many Stories, features paintings on canvas and paper, as well as fiber works and prints by Regina Wilson. The inspiration for Wilson’s works come from the traditional weaving practices of her people. “My painting,’ says Wilson, ‘it’s about the weaving. In case our daughters or grandchildren forget, it’s on the painting. My big sister told me to do the story on painting for our kids, so they can remember what our ancestors used to do a long time ago. The story, it’s there from a hundred thousand years ago.” In shimmering detail, Wilson recreates weaving techniques in paint on canvas—stitch by stich—creating luminous rhythmic abstractions. Wilson’s large-scale masterworks, which have brought her international acclaim, will be exhibited alongside her virtuosic fiber-works that show both the innovation and strength of tradition in contemporary Aboriginal art.
Regina, Henry and Leaya Wilson will travel to Charlottesville for the exhibition openings on May 24 and 25th. Henry Wilson will give a tour of Ngunguni at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection on Saturday, May 26 at 10:30 am, and Regina Pilawuk Wilson will give a tour of Ngerringkrrety on Saturday, May 26 at 2:00 pm. On June 2, educators from Kluge-Ruhe and Second Street Gallery will present a Weaving Workshop, during which participants will learn the weaving techniques used in the mats that inspire the patterns found in Regina’s paintings. Space for the workshop is limited and registration is required.
One of the unique aspects of both exhibitions is that they were curated by community members. “These exhibitions show how Aboriginal communities are taking charge of their own destinies,” says Skerritt. “In taking control of these exhibitions, the communities are taking control of how they present themselves to the world.” Kluge-Ruhe and Second Street Gallery have convened a private roundtable discussion of local curators, which will include Regina and Henry Wilson, to discuss how community curation works and why it is important.
This project is sponsored by the UVA Institute for Humanities and Global Culture, the Embassy of Australia, the UVA Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative, Durrmu Arts, Second Street Gallery and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA.
Top: Artist Regina Pilawuk Wilson. Photo by Cassie De Colling.
Middle: Peppimenarti artists examining works from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. Photo by Kade McDonald.
Bottom: Regina Pilawuk Wilson, Syaw (Fishnet), 2014. Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl © Regina Pilawik Wilson, courtesy Durrmu Arts, Peppimenarti, Photo: Sid Hoeltzell.
Ngunguni: Old Techniques Remain Strong
Kluge-Ruhe Collection | May 24 – September 9, 2018
Bark Paintings from the West Daly River Region
Curated by Henry Wilson, Malcom Wilson and Regina Pilawuk Wilson
Ngerringkrrety: One Voice, Many Stories
Second Street Gallery
May 25 – July 27, 2018
The art of Regina Pilawuk Wilson
Curated by Regina Pilawuk Wilson
About the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA: As the only museum outside Australia solely dedicated to the exhibition and study of Indigenous Australian culture and arts, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection is a global art asset of UVA and Charlottesville. Its collection houses over 1800 objects from across Australia in a variety of media, from eucalyptus bark to acrylic on canvas to photography and sculpture. The museum welcomes more than 25 visiting artists and scholars per year for an array of enriching educational programs and acts as a center for Indigenous Australian art in the United States. It is located on Pantops next to Martha Jefferson Hospital, and is free and open to the public Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm and Sundays from 1 – 5 pm. Learn more at www.kluge-ruhe.org or on the museum’s Facebook page.
About Second Street Gallery: Second Street Gallery is committed to offering Charlottesville and the central Virginia region leading-edge new art in perspective and context, and to fostering an active and open appreciation of this art by directly engaging the issues surrounding works by the best contemporary artists in the field. It is located just off the Downtown Mall and is open Tuesday – Friday, 12 – 5 pm and Saturdays from 11-5pm. Learn more at www.secondstreetgallery.org or on the gallery’s Facebook page.
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection