Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia

Everywhen_HAM installation view_seasonality_GS07865_PR

View of the Seasonality-themed gallery in the exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia on display February 5–September 18, 2016 at the Harvard Art Museums. Photo: Harvard Art Museums, © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

A few weeks ago Natalie and I made a visit to the recently-expanded Harvard Art Museums to see Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia. On view until September 18, the exhibition explores the visual culture of indigenous Australians through more than 70 works. The exhibition focuses on artwork from the last 40 years, but does also include artifacts from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, including a grass skirt, wooden bowls, and stunning pearl shell and hair necklaces. These objects underline the rich material culture, unique philosophy and understandings of time and space among indigenous Australian groups.

Watson-Wipu Rockhole_TL41477.3_transformation_PR

Tommy Watson, Wipu Rockhole, 2004. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’Group 2004, 256.2004. © Tommy Watson/Courtesy of Yanda Aboriginal Art.

The repetitive lines, winding shapes, overlapping colors, and textured dots found on many of the canvases resonate with ritual, mythical, and geographical meanings. Even viewed apart from any cultural context, many are visually stunning. These are pieces to delve into, with long looks and a circle back around the room.

Their pure beauty contrasts with the rawness of the more political pieces — a stark and important reminder of the centuries-long struggle of indigenous Australians to survive and preserve their own culture in the face of violence, colonization, and contact with European diseases. This powerful exhibition is definitely one to see.

Everywhen_Ah Kee_Many Lies_3947_PR

Artist Vernon Ah Kee and his work, many lies (2004). View of the exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australiaon display February 5–September 18, 2016 at the Harvard Art Museums. Photo: R. Leopoldina Torres, © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Watson-Bunya_TL41485_seasonality_PR

Judy Watson, bunya, 2011. Pigment, acrylic, watercolor pencil on canvas. Private collection, Australia. Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Australia © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VISCOPY Australia.

Harvard Art Museums. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission $15 adults, $13 seniors, $10 students, free for youth, Cambridge residents, and Harvard students and faculty.

no comment