Pro Community 2016 – Aboriginal Art from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands

PRO COMMUNITY brings together a diverse and beautiful array of works from five small, young art centres in one of the most remote regions in Australia, with an aim to highlight the beauty and frailty of a region where its artists are daily faced with wide-ranging social, cultural and health pressures which ultimately have an impact on their art and the art-making process. These pressures include the limited access to vital services, high poverty, high unemployment, stress, nutrition, dementia, mental health, and the ageing process, which all contribute and impact on the artists in some shape or form.

This exhibition asks the question, 'how do the pressures of age and mental health impact on creativity; and how do these artists and their respective art centres adapt in the face of these pressures?'

The five art centres Papulankutja Artists, Kayili Artists, Warakurna Artists, Tjarlirli Art and The Minyma Kutjara Arts Project are based in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, and the paintings produced on these lands are executed far from the “’madding crowd’’, which might be the reason why the Ng Lands are home to some of the most effective, long-standing and culturally as well as aesthetically – rich art centres in Australia.

In these cooperatives they don’t ask what art is for, but whom art is for. Art serves the community and not just by giving the elderly the chance to preserve as much as possible of their vast knowledge. With age, comes the dissolution of memory and the onset of dementia, which many elderly artists of The Lands have had to confront. However, innovative Tjilpi and Pampa (old men and women) painting programs have been established to provide therapeutic painting workshops and a subsequent outlet for artists to continue to record and tell their stories for the generations to come.

In the community of Wanarn, The Lands’ aged care facility is where many of the great Ngaanyatjarra artists retire. Here, an entire subcategory of Ngaanyatjarra art has developed, characterised by a minimalistic style, a looseness of technique and a richness of content. Comparisons with Western art brut are obvious and new collectors in Germany and Switzerland are bound to be attracted by the power of their magic.

While some clinical symptoms, such as loss of sight, may cause a reduction in attention to detail, perspective, correct colour shades and depth, there is an increase in symbolism and the power of these works is very noticeable. Deformations, distortions, bizarre and even weird compositions and unusual palettes convey an innate tension and put our viewing habits to the test.

Robyn Kelch, owner of ARTKELCH states:
'Here in Germany the whole topic seems to be still a taboo. Not many people know which famous Western artists were mentally incapacitated and yet ̶ or perhaps due this – were successful in their field. Willem de Kooning had Alzheimer´s for 10 years and continued to work. Dürer, Caspar David Friedrich, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Edvard Munch, Picasso and Rembrandt, just to name a few, suffered from affective disorders. Jörg Immendorf was diagnosed with ALS, a neuropathic illness. Otto Dix kept on painting after his stroke…

In the Wanarn senior citizens’ home, however, in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia, a completely new genre of desert art is in the making dedicated to end of life vision and imagination. A special Tjilpi and Pampa (old men and old women) program has fostered some remarkable late-blooming art careers that are taking the Australian art world by storm.'

Yet another dimension to the dexterity in Ngaanyatjarra art are the so-called history paintings. Here, the artists leave the abstraction that is their standard creative calling card, and turn to figuration. In these works, artists paint (and, increasingly, add objects to their paintings, creating three-dimensional works) historical vignettes, that, with a lightness of touch, bring to life all manner of stories, from the first contact with white people to the constant mining activities in and around their communities nowadays.

Last but not least PRO COMMUNITY 2016 will feature the four finalists of the latest National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award: Bob Gibson, Esther Giles, Nyarapayi Giles and Kunmanara (Carol) Golding as well as Eunice Porter, the winner of the latest Western Australian Artist Award.

The exhibition consists of nearly 100 works in total. It is the biggest exhibition of artists from The Lands outside Australia. The works were selected in close collaboration with the participating art centres.
On top of the Telstra finalists artists presented include Mrs. Woods, Anawari Mitchell, Angilyiya Mitchell, Janet Forbes, Elaine Lane, Thomas Reid, Anmanari Brown, Fred Ward, Kunmanara (Myra) Cook, Cynthia Burke, Neville Mcarthur, Valmayi Nampitjinpa, Katjarra Butler, Bonnie Connelly, Eileen Giles, Diane Dawson, Roma Butler a.o.

ARTKELCH is thrilled to show this vibrant variety of Aboriginal desert art to a broad audience across Germany.

The exhibition runs under the patronage of the Australian Embassy in Germany and is accompanied by a catalogue.

Maximilianstraße 42, 80538 München
Opening on Thursday 14.04.2016 at 7:00 pm

Contact: Robyn Kelch, +49 761 – 704 3271, robyn.kelch(at)

Image rights: Nyarapayi Giles, 2015 © Tjarlirli Art.