Revealed is an annual show of the best new and emerging WA Aboriginal artists, hosted by the Fremantle Arts Centre. The exhibition is set out with no unifying argument or theme, intending itself as more of a showcase. The works presents themselves to the viewer, rather than perform.
An array of various dot-paintings stand out foremost. Canvases by Katie Ward and Bonni Ingram jump around on the wall. The artists have slightly smoothed their brushstrokes in order to give a more shifting, hallucinatory take on the traditional form. Justin Martin employs a precise pointillism, but abandons traditional ochre tones in favour of a chromatic palette which almost look pop; it recalls the experiments of Sally Gabori, who in my opinion is our greatest contemporary painter. The forms are broadly ancestral, but the colours scream an entirely unique personality.
Lindsay Malay works along the same lines, flattening figures onto the canvas and switching up the colouring to a wry, contemporary custom. The paintings of Marika Mung variate the same theme, offering dry compositions. The gallery-goer might be forgiven for calling it outstanding Greenberg modernism, before sheepishly reflecting the forms presented here predate all Western art. The high-style abstractions make Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns look late, without even speaking their language.
The meeting of contemporaneity and tradition is hit more squarely in other works, with the superimposition of modern images into traditional shapes, following radical artists such as Richard Bell. Dallas Fletcher offers a striking full-wall display, splicing motifs and poking at issues from a country perspective. There’s no pretense of anthropological historicism to this exhibition. The art is boldly contemporary, and its allegiance seems to me to be to individual expression. The artists present themselves however they want to, combing aspects of their contemporary practice with more traditional cultural techniques.
To be stunned by this exhibition is involuntary, and not enough. Revealed puts the onus on the viewer to engage with the art more deeply. To appreciate this art would be to learn ideas and techniques that sit conspicuously outside the roughly linear dialogue of European art history. In championing outsider artists, Revealed seeks to amplify the consciousness of contemporary Australian art. To that end, it is incredibly important.
Words by Harry Peter Sanderson