A veteran desert artist’s drawing inspired by his brother’s death has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize. Ngarralja Tommy May was announced the major winner of The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award on Friday for his work Wirrkanja. It comes after May was repeatedly pipped at the post for more than 30 years, with the 85-year-old saying “I’m the winner at last”. “I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said. May said Wirrkanja country, near the Kurtal waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert, was flat with sand dunes as far as the eye can see “It’s the country where I lost my brother. This is my country and my family’s country,” the Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man said. “It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route (in Western Australia).” The judging panel praised May for the exquisite beauty and power of his work, saying it was a “triumphant artwork by an artist at the height of his creative powers”. Exhibition curator Luke Scholes says this years’ entries in the long-running art award continue to be both extraordinary and political. “It is a reminder by artists that they have survived and that we, as Australians, we live on Aboriginal land,” he said. Northern Territory artist Adrian Jangala Robertson won the general painting award with a work depicting his mother’s country titled Yalpirakinu. The bark painting award went to Marrnyula Munungurr for her work Munguymirri. South Australian artist Iluwanti Ken won the works on paper award for her ink-on-paper work titled Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting). The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award went to Jenna Lee for a set of sculptures titled HIStory vessels. “This work challenges the notion that Captain Cook discovered Australia,” the judges noted. Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs won the multimedia award with Shinkansen, while Cecilia Umbagai won the emerging artist award with the painting Yoogu. Australian Associated Press
A veteran desert artist’s drawing inspired by his brother’s death has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize.
Ngarralja Tommy May was announced the major winner of The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award on Friday for his work Wirrkanja.
It comes after May was repeatedly pipped at the post for more than 30 years, with the 85-year-old saying “I’m the winner at last”.
“I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said.
May said Wirrkanja country, near the Kurtal waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert, was flat with sand dunes as far as the eye can see
“It’s the country where I lost my brother. This is my country and my family’s country,” the Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man said.
“It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route (in Western Australia).”
The judging panel praised May for the exquisite beauty and power of his work, saying it was a “triumphant artwork by an artist at the height of his creative powers”.
Exhibition curator Luke Scholes says this years’ entries in the long-running art award continue to be both extraordinary and political.
“It is a reminder by artists that they have survived and that we, as Australians, we live on Aboriginal land,” he said.
Northern Territory artist Adrian Jangala Robertson won the general painting award with a work depicting his mother’s country titled Yalpirakinu.
The bark painting award went to Marrnyula Munungurr for her work Munguymirri.
South Australian artist Iluwanti Ken won the works on paper award for her ink-on-paper work titled Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting).
The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award went to Jenna Lee for a set of sculptures titled HIStory vessels.
“This work challenges the notion that Captain Cook discovered Australia,” the judges noted.
Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs won the multimedia award with Shinkansen, while Cecilia Umbagai won the emerging artist award with the painting Yoogu.
“It’s so peculiar to me that Cook is this symbol of national identity when he was not Australian. [He] was not Australian and would never have identified as one, he went back to England and didn’t have the best things to say,” Lee says. “I look around and see the people I know as Australian, all these beautiful multicultural [people].”
“I wanted people to have a conversation around this; I am more Australian than Cook will ever be, so let’s have a conversation about the symbols and the stories we are promoting.”
Identity is a theme in several pieces this year. West Australian artist Ngarralja Tommy May won the $50,000 Telstra Art Award for his work Wirrkanja. Judges described the striking black and white piece depicting May’s country, near the Canning Stock Route, as the reflection of an artist at the height of his powers.
A finalist in the NATSIAAs eight times, May, a Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man, draws on tin or wood using a knife or a pen.
“This work is Wirrkanja, it’s the country where I lost my brother, its jilji (sand dune) country and flat country,” May says. “There’s a jila there (living spring waterhole). It’s not far from Kurtal, over two sand dunes. It’s in flood time, the water runs down the jilji (sand dunes).”
Born in Yarrkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert, May has been making art for more than three decades and learnt his craft from his father and grandfather. His work is held in many collections including the prestigious Kluge-Ruhe Museum of Aboriginal Art in Charlottesville, USA, and locally at the NGA, Queensland Art Gallery and the NGV.
Traditionally announced at a busy time in Darwin’s calendar, running simultaneously with the Darwin Festival and the Darwin Art Fair, the pandemic meant this year’s awards were live-streamed around the country on Friday evening. They were judged by Donna Nadjamerrek, director of Injalak Arts, Darwin based visual artist Karen Mills and Araluen Arts Centre curator Stephen Williamson.
This year’s winners also include Adrian Jangala Robertson for the general painting award; Marrnyula Munungurr for bark painting; Iluwanti Ken for works on paper; Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs for the multimedia award and Cecilia Umbagai received the emerging artist award.
MAGNT assistant curator Clare Armitage said the NATSIAA works speak of many different and specific things. For Armitage, the main threads this year were ideas around resilience, generosity and creativity as a way forward.
Uniquely, the 250-room Chelsea Hotel was and remains a combination of hotel rooms and rent-protected apartments. While travellers from all over the globe could pay to stay, it was the many famous and infamous names who lived and died at the Chelsea who crafted its story.
The hotel was home to William Burroughs, Jackson Pollock, Nico and Dee Dee Ramone. In 1978 Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious, bled to death in the Chelsea Hotel – an event depicted in the 1986 cult film Sid & Nancy starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb. It was also home to Melbourne-born Vali Myers, the opium-addicted, flame-haired dancer and artist who checked into the Chelsea in 1971 and remained there for 43 years before returning to Melbourne.
Myers was not the only long-term Chelsea resident to have hailed from Melbourne. One of the few residents still at the Chelsea, Tony Notarberardino, arrived in 1994 and has lived and worked there since. His apartment, combining the previous residences of Myers and Dee Dee Ramone (of the riotous punk band The Ramones), is still a bohemian sanctuary. Its deep-red walls and ceiling, eclectic mish-mash of collected objects, murals, animal print and mannequins all speak to a bygone era of Biba fashion, ’70s glam and bordello luxe.
For the past two decades he’s dedicated his time – 365 days a year – to his Chelsea Hotel Portraits project. “I set out to document the extraordinary cross-section of people who lived at or came to the hotel for one reason or another: tenants, transient hotel guests, staff, actors, writers, circus performers, drug dealers, drifters, porn stars, show girls, musicians and pretty much anyone I found in the lobby or the hallways late at night,” say Notarberardino.
Notarberardino set up an old-fashioned large-format 8×10 camera in the hallway of his apartment. “I wanted to be ready 24 hours a day,” he says.
While the project captures the essence of the Chelsea Hotel, both the romantic idealism of those who have only seen photos or heard stories and the true, larger-than-life reality of the place, Notarberardino’s intention was to capture the people. “I wasn’t interested in the building or the rooms, just the people.”
His subjects have included Deborah Harry, Warren Ellis, Dee Dee Ramone (who died in 2002) and Stanley Bard, as well as a flamboyant parade of lesser-known models, actors, musicians, artists and performers spotted in the corridors of the Chelsea. The photographs are highly detailed black and white portraits, many of them nudes, with the models looking directly, even defiantly, at the camera. The images are striking, candid and beautiful.
Notarberardino has photographed burlesque performers the Porcelain Twinz numerous times over the years. In his portraits, their androgynous bodies, pale and ghostly, are clad in thigh-high, glossy black boots, black nipple pasties, and leather chokers connect them by a metal chain from throat to throat. Their gaze is direct but disengaged. Like many of the subjects in the series, they seem both complicit and detached from their role as models – as if it is perfectly expected that they will be photographed at 3am, naked, in New York City.
One of his favourite portraits is of Stanley Bard, who transitioned from the plumber’s assistant at the hotel to manager and part owner in 1964 upon his father’s death. While the hotel fell into a decrepit state, where plumbing and cleaning were addressed only when they reached emergency status, Bard fostered the Fourier vision of communal living as a buttress for creativity.
“There were two original Brett Whiteleys hanging in the lobby when I arrived,” recalls Notarberardino. “Stanley had Andy Warhols because so many of the Factory people lived here, Nico and all the Chelsea girls. The whole collection was auctioned off a couple of years ago. Stanley’s contribution to the arts scene in New York has never been acknowledged or documented like it should. He just loved artists.”
‘The whole Chelsea is built on a portal, there’s something supernatural about this place. It has such a creative energy.’
A selection of Notarberardino’s work has been compiled into proof format, awaiting publication, although he doesn’t yet have a publisher. The book, when it is released, will be the last of the great works defined by and depicting the Chelsea Hotel as it was, the Chelsea where Bob Dylan wrote Sara, where Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe worked and lived in the 1970s, where Leonard Cohen wrote Chelsea Hotel #2 and where Arthur C. Clarke penned 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“The whole Chelsea is built on a portal, there’s something supernatural about this place,” says Notarberardino. “It has such a creative energy.”
He’s been able to dedicate time and money to Chelsea Portraits through his work in advertising for high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Ave, Bergdorf Goodman, and campaigns for major beauty companies. He also shoots for Vanity Fair magazine and Vogue.
His work in fashion and media began in Sydney more than 40 years ago. Born and raised in Melbourne to Italian migrant parents, Notarberardino attributes his career and passion for art to his childhood.
”My early influences came from my parents’ obsession with Italian neo-realist films. They used to take my sisters and I to a cinema in Sydney Road, Brunswick that screened Italian movies on a Saturday night. The power of those black and white films really shaped my vision.”
In Sydney, he worked for Vogue and various fashion clients before moving to the major fashion capitals of London, Milan and Paris. Frustrated by his inability to communicate easily and fluently in the French capital, he moved to New York.
“Within hours of arriving at the Chelsea, where my assistant had offered me space on the floor shared with three others, I went to ask for a room,” he recalls. “They asked if I wanted overnight or long term, which I didn’t even know was possible. That’s how I met Stanley Bard. It was Stanley who supported all the artists. Ten minutes later, he walked me into Vali Myers’ old apartment and all these years later I’m still here.”
Colin Miller, a New York-based photographer, together with writer Ray Mock released Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven last year, a glossy tome that has documented the rooms and interiors of the Chelsea Hotel.
“The original idea was to try to document the homes of the people who lived there before all the renovations took place,” he says. It would take him four years owing to the challenge of trying to get residents who kept nocturnal hours, wary of outsiders, to agree to open their doors to him.
“My wife and I met Tony pretty early on. His apartment almost exists on another plane. His bedroom is my favourite place to be, actually. Tony’s created his own world there. He’s at the end of the hall on the sixth floor. The walls are vibrant red with yellow flowers over the doorway. Inside, it’s like a circus. On the left, the room that used to be Vali Myers’ has a ceiling painted in a starburst of yellow flowers and her murals all remain as she left them. It’s like a burlesque netherworld with candles, costumes and religious icons everywhere you look.”
‘It’s like a burlesque netherworld with candles, costumes and religious icons everywhere you look.’
Colin Miller on Tony Notarberardino’s apartment
Notarberardino’s main living room is the only one with a working fireplace, in front of which a chandelier sits on the floor studded with candles and light bulbs. A full wall is dedicated to a tableau of family portraits including Notarberardino’s two daughters, Venus, 24 and Persia, 20, who are living with their mother in Byron Bay.
“My daughters were here when 9/11 happened, but after that they moved back to Australia. They lived here for years, though. When I came to New York, it felt like a fantasy land. I felt at home so quickly, though.
When I’m done, it’s my hope that my daughters move in and live here under the grandfathering laws, which enable me to pass the apartment on to them.”
For now, Notarberardino can’t fathom living anywhere else. He continues to take portraits on the old-fashioned 8×10 Large Format Camera that is, in itself, a piece of art.
Chelsea Portraits is scheduled to exhibit at ACA Galleries in New York City next year. Notarberardino plans to travel the exhibition to London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo and, he hopes, Australian galleries thereafter.
Artists have been doing it tough during COVID-19, but their passion and creativity hasn’t stopped, with the Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2020 receiving a record 711 entries.
Community Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said it was very heart-warming that the entries had come from far and wide, including some of Australia’s best contemporary and emerging artists.
“In the gallery’s 20th anniversary year, and the 15th year of the Sunshine Coast Art Prize, I’m really pleased for the gallery team and rapt by the number of entries we’ve received,” Cr Baberowski said.
“We are committed to supporting artists and the arts industry, which is why we made entry free this year and, together with our generous partners, we’re offering more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
“We have a medley of really talented artists in this year’s larger field of entries, so selecting 40 finalists for the art prize exhibition will be an extra challenging, but enjoyable task, especially as the winning work will be acquired into the Sunshine Coast Art Collection.
“I hope the finalists will particularly enjoy being a part of the Sunshine Coast Art Prize in this special anniversary year.”
Finalists will be announced in August and will be showcased in an exhibition at Caloundra Regional Gallery and online from Friday, October 16 to Sunday, December 6.
High profile and experienced gallery director Tracy Cooper-Lavery will judge the Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2020. Winners will be announced at the end of the exhibition.
Major prize: an acquisitive prize of $25,000 cash sponsored by Argon Law and Sunshine Coast Council
Highly Commended: non-acquisitive prize of $5000 sponsored by the De Deyne family
People’s Choice: non-acquisitive prize of $2500 sponsored by Caloundra Chamber of Commerce
Sunshine Coast Art Prize Residency: sponsored by Caloundra Regional Gallery and Montville Country Cabins.
Artwork transportation costs have been covered thanks to IAS Fine Art Logistics and Caloundra Regional Gallery.
The previous highest Sunshine Coast Art Prize entry record was 625 in 2016.
The current global pandemic has forced us to interrogate and transform many aspects of our daily lives that once seemed beyond question. The most significant philosophical and ethical lesson for a post-COVID world, however, is undoubtedly the extent to which the coronavirus has revealed just how closely the fate of the individual and the collective are intertwined. In our current issue, Paris-based curator and writer Anabelle Lacroix identifies this relationship between self and other as a central component of Mel O’Callaghan’s solo exhibition ‘Centre of the Centre’, on show at UQ Art Museum, Brisbane (until 16 January 2021 before continuing its Australian tour through Museums & Galleries of New South Wales): ‘Dealing with the origins of life and altered states of consciousness, O’Callaghan’s exhibition places experience at the core of the work’, exploring concepts of ‘movement, experience and duration … as well as that of ambience [as] a position that comes not from but through a field of multiple references’.
It is from this ambience, Lacroix explains, ‘a flattening of hierarchies … in which each part is equally important’, that the radical potential of the exhibition emerges. ‘In an age where our very thoughts and emotions have been invaded by the commodifying logic of capitalism, ideas of altered states of consciousness … have become political’, and the ambient fusion of experiences in O’Callaghan’s exhibition offers a transgressive template for a worldview ‘that celebrates all forms of life, known and unknown, of the ones close to us and those on the edge of consciousness’.
Isolated in our homes and barred from travelling beyond our immediate surroundings, our present state is undoubtedly one with the potential to profoundly alter our consciousness of the world, our neighbours and ourselves. As Lacroix suggests, we are faced with a choice: do we fall back now on our old habits of conspicuous consumption, taking what comfort we can in the material possessions with which we surround ourselves? Or should we use this as an opportunity to explore new modes of being together, and new forms of communication?
In Centre of the Centre (2019), a 20-minute video created over two years in collaboration with Daniel Fornari of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, and music psychotherapist Sabine Rittner of the University Hospital of Heidelberg in Germany, among others, O’Callaghan plumbs the depths of the Pacific Ocean, including the life cycle of the coco worm (Protula magnifica). Projected across the gallery wall, this tiny inhabitant of the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines, the ‘centre of the centre of all marine biodiversity’, assumes spectacular proportions, ‘glowing, vibrating and radiating with diffracted light [that] is truly hypnotic’. This meeting of microcosm and macrocosm is further reinforced by performances of ‘breath-induced trance’ that take place within the adjacent exhibition space, ‘the shaking movement of the performers, their endurance and the increased intensity of breath [offering] a reminder of our own physical limits, as well as invoking the creation of life’.
The message of O’Callaghan’s exhibition, as of the current global pandemic, seems clear: we are all connected, whether we like it or not. From our homes to our neighbourhoods, cities, countries, regions, even our shared species and global ecosystem, we can either continue on the destructive path we have set for ourselves or, following O’Callaghan’s example, we can seek an altered state that puts the origins of life in a broader philosophical perspective.
Milparinka may only have one pub, but its rich history of Indigenous life, gold mining, and cameleers is now celebrated in a mural that took outback artist Jodi Daley seven years to complete.
New murals show the stages of human involvement in Milparinka’s history
Broken Hill artist Jodi Daley took inspiration from real people who lived and worked on the land
The mural will be a highly visible landmark when driving into Milparinka
The artwork, now on display at the Milparinka Albert Goldfields Mining Heritage Precinct, celebrates the area’s history through to today’s pastoral era.
The former Outback Art Prize winner and Archibald finalist said it took seven years to complete the murals.
The precinct received a small grant to fund the project as part of the New South Wales Government’s $5 million Far West attraction project.
Art honours those who called Corner Country home
Daley worked closely with Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association president Ruth Sandow to use images of real people who lived on the land as inspiration for the piece.
“But also, the beauty of that and the reasons why everyone was going out there and the history that we find when we look back.”
A smaller mural inspired by an old photo of the early settlers was featured on the outside wall of the precinct.
Ms Sandow said Daley’s work delivered the precinct’s vision of showcasing the timeline of human involvement in the landscape.
“Jodi has deep roots in this country, and I think she was the perfect choice to do the mural for us,” Ms Sandow said.
‘A perfect historic timeline’
Some of the artist’s understanding of Milparinka’s history came from her own family ties to the area.
“I’ve really connected to the place and the wider area.”
She said, while the artwork focused on the area’s Indigenous history, it reminded viewers of the often forgotten story of the Afghan cameleers’ involvement in helping build and connect regional Australia.
Broken Hill was famous for its silver, lead and zinc deposits, but the region’s rich mining history extended much further into the Far West.
The Albert Goldfields Region was a gold mining hub in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Hundreds of Chinese and European miners endured extreme food and water shortages from working and living so remotely.
New visitors discovering Far West
The main mural spanning 14 metres long and nearly 2 metres high is currently on display inside the precinct, but will eventually be installed on the outside of the building.
Ms Sandow said the image would be highly visible from the road coming into Milparinka.
“The storyline will wrap around the long and short side of the shed,” Ms Sandow said.
Ms Sandow said more people had visited the area since COVID-19 put a halt to international travel.
“There has been a lot of visitation from people who may not ever have come out this way before but are discovering it’s a wonderful, accessible part of Australia,” she said.
Daley said she was excited for the mural to have its own impact on visitors and the local community.
The Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at The University of Western Australia has announced it will reopen on Saturday 29 August with the premiere of two new major exhibitions exploring queer history and culture.
HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer is a showcase of new work by eight multidisciplinary queer artists from Western Australia, and A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk is an examination of the first recorded moment in European queer history in Australia by artist Drew Pettifer.
Curated by Perth-based artist and emerging curator Brent Harrison, HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer will examine the ways that queer artists draw on history and their own lived experiences to create artwork that reflects on what it means to be queer.
It will feature work by a diverse group of contemporary artists including Benjamin Bannan, Nathan Beard, Janet Carter, Lill Colgan, Jo Darbyshire, Brontë Jones, Andrew Nicholls and Colin Smith.
The exhibition is part of the Gallery’s annual HERE&NOW series, which is devoted to showcasing contemporary art practice in Western Australia and is curated by each year by an emerging curator, appointed to offer fresh insight and perspective on the field.
Curator Brent Harrison said the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the professional practice of local queer artists.
“In addition to supporting local queer artists, the exhibition will also open a dialogue with Perth communities about the experiences of queer people and the issues we face,” Mr Harrison said.
A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk isa new solo exhibition by Victorian artist and academic Drew Pettifer that focuses on the 1727 sodomy trial following the shipwreck of the Zeewijk off the coast of Western Australia in the Albrolhos.
Arguably the first recorded moment in European queer history in Australia, the trial resulted in the sentencing of two young ship’s mates to death by marooning on separate nearby islands.
Artist Drew Pettifer said that examining the trial and events surrounding it offered the opportunity to explore the relationship between history and the present day.
“History is always constructed in the present moment through the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Revealing alternative histories allows us to rethink our present and imagine new futures,” Dr Pettifer said.
The exhibition builds on a broader investigation within Pettifer’s work that explores hidden queer histories through archival art practices. It will feature new work in photography, video, audio and installation.
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery Director Professor Ted Snell said the upcoming season of exhibitions would shine a light on important and timely issues.
“We are delighted to be presenting such a rich program that will allow us to explore in-depth some of these issues with our audiences and to continue to support the excellent work of contemporary Australian artists,’ Professor Snell said.
HERE&NOW20 and A Sorrowful Act will remain on show until 5 December 2020. From 29 August, visitors to the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery will also have the opportunity to view (Un)ladylike Acts: Recent Acquisitions from the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art and Boomerang – A National Symbol, presented by the Berndt Museum of Anthropology.
For more information, including opening hours and a full list of accompanying programs, visit the LWAG website.