Alice Springs – Made Sudibia
Vast and dramatic, yet empty, it’s colours and moods potent, and ever changing – the Top End is one of the world’s extraordinary natural environments. Visitors to the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia are overwhelmed by the space, power, and beauty of this remote and ancient terrain. Until recently, this pristine landscape remained unchartered territory by Indonesian artists.
The Artist’s Camp is a special, biannual initiative that began in 2012, with origins tracing back to the late 1970’s. It has been designed to introduce Indonesian artists to an array of NT landscapes and aboriginal cultures in order to engage and creatively respond to the indigenous environment and people. The 2015 Artist’s Camp has been the most ambitious project to date, with nine foreign artists, mostly Balinese, staying five weeks and traversing the NT 1500 Km’s south from Darwin to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock), and crossing the waters north of Darwin to Melville Island.
A view of some of the works by Indonesian artists on display at NCCA
The artists visited and lived with diverse aboriginal communities where they learned about the local cultures, while also painting with the local artists. Touring in the region not only necessitates commitment and preparation, yet also in some instances, special permission from the authorities. Acquiring the deepest insights into the character and wisdom of this foreign environment only became possible along side the indigenous people.
The Balinese artists immediately established strong associations with the aboriginals whose culture is similar to their own, being deeply rooted in the environment and the spiritual world – with parallel universal cosmological views. Their sensitivity to distinctions of the physical and the non-physical worlds of the Top End translated into potent, intuitive artworks.
A view of work by Indonesian artists on display at the NCCA
The Artists’ Camp Retrospective 2012-2015 Exhibition presented impressions of the NT’s iconic terrains by some of Bali’s most exciting contemporary artists at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Darwin, open from 19 January – 15 February 2018. Thirty-five works and over one hundred photographs revealed the vibrancy and soul of the Top End, while highlighting artistic engagement with the landscape, and the aboriginal culture.
Officiated by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner and the Indonesian Acting Consul Mohhamed Hanifa, the exhibition opened in classical Indonesian style with three hits from an old Javanese gong. The exhibiting artists were I Made Budhiana, I Made Sudibia, Ni Nyoman Sani, I Wayan Wirawan, I Made ‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, I Gede Gunada Eka Atmaja, and I Dewa Gede Rata Yoga (Balinese), and East Javanese female painter Suryani, along with Aboriginal artist Lionel Possum and Australian artist Rupert Batheras. The Chief Minister of the NT, the Australia Indonesia Institute, the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth Bank Indonesia have sponsored the event.
Art by renowned Balinese artist Made Budhiana
“Being the first exhibition for the year we wanted to start with an exhibition involving Asian engagement and engagement with Indonesia, in particular,” said exhibition curator, long time collector of Indonesian and Aboriginal art and former Director and Chairman of the Board of Museums and Art Galleries in the Northern Territory (MAGNT), Colin McDonald.
“We wanted to highlight the artistic perceptions and aesthetic interpretations by leading Indonesian artists of the landscape of the Northern Territory and responses to living in Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal cultures.”
“I am so glad to learn that those participating artists in the Artists’ Camp have come together to showcase their collaborative works. I can simply say by looking at the paintings that you have worked so well and shown excellent pieces that represent the uniqueness of the Northern Territory,” said Mohhamed Hanifa during his exhibition opening speech.
Some of the photos taken during the Artist’s Camp by Balinese artists Wayan Wirawan & Made Budhiana on display at the NCCA
“I would like to especially thank Colin McDonald who has been bridging and maintaining relationships, not only between the Bali Provincial Government and NT Government, but importantly between the Indonesian/Balinese artists and Australian/Territorian artists.”
Delving into new visual and conceptual territories the artists created vital interpretations of the landscape, from the barren wilderness, to mountain ranges and desert springs, along with responses to aboriginal traditions and livelihood. Some of the highlights were “Munupi & Pukumani Pipes” painted on Melville Island, Wayan Wirawan’s reaction to burial poles of the Tiwi Aboriginal community of Pirlangimpi, Made Budhiana’s “In the Darkness of the Night” is his nocturnal observations of the aboriginals and how at night the greater spirit of the people became evident, and Suryani’s pulsating “Beswick-Darwin” capturing the essence colorful native flora.
Indonesian Acting Consul Mohhamed Hanifa, the Chief Minister of the NT Michael Gunner and Colin McDonald during the opening at the NCCA.
The photographs, taken by Budhiana and Wirawan, revealed a compelling story of the artist’s time in the NT as guests, and as impromptu Indonesian cultural ambassadors. From their many light-hearted moments to random snaps taken on the road, while exploring, and art making, to images of their meetings with the public, officials at honorary functions, and the aboriginal people.
“What has stood out to me,” McDonald said, “Is the effortless way that the Indonesians interacted with the Aboriginal people, the positive synergy that evolved and the Indonesian’s immense appreciation for the indigenous traditions and art of the Top End.”
In the Darkness of Night – Made Budhiana
Twi Landscape – Nyoman Sani
Honeymoon Gap – Wayan Wirawan
Balinese artists Wayan Wirawan, Made Budhiana and Nyoman Sani with Australian artist Rupert Berteras at the NCCA.
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Made Budhiana, Richard Horstman, Colin McDonald & Maurice O’Riordan.