Mark Patrick speaks with Tina Baum, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia about their latest exhibition, Ever Present.
Ever Present features more than 100 works by 80 artists as it considers seven overarching and interlinked themes: Ancestors + Creators; Country + Constellations; Community + Family; Culture + Ceremony; Trade + Influence; Resistance + Colonisation; and Innovation + Identity. Together the works underline the ever-present existence of the First Peoples of Australia.
From Albert Namatjira’s Ormiston Gorge, Timothy Cook’s Kulama, and Mabel Juli’s Wardal and Garnkeny to Julie Dowling’s Self-portrait: in our county, Michael Cook’s Broken Dreams #2 and Richard Bell’s Omega (Bell’s Theorem), the works in the exhibition traverse themes of identity, connection, Australia’s contested historical narratives, and the contemporary experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists practising today. Each piece revealing the determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to tell their stories in their own way.
Although a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Ever Present does not shy away from Australia’s complex histories. The artists contest populist views of Australian history, using art as a tool of resistance and replacing physical weaponry with wit, satire and juxtaposition to confront viewers and encourage conversations that are essential to dispute outdated myths and ideologies.