Arts and Design

Spinifex artwork explores Indigenous culture and environment

Wirtpi 2015: spinifex with emu feathers by Shirley Macnamara. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.

Spinifex, emu feathers, bone and ochre feature in an exhibition opening at the UQ Art Museum on 18 August 2018.

Shirley Macnamara: Layered threads presents the work of acclaimed contemporary fibre artist Shirley Macnamara, an Indjalandji Dhidhanu/Alyawarr woman, whose Country lies in the semi-arid landscape around Camooweal, on the Queensland-Northern Territory border.

An artist and a cattlewoman, she lives and works on Mount Guide Station, south of Mount Isa.

Macnamara’s artworks speak of the environment, culture and history, and convey ideas of refuge, commemoration, and regeneration.

“Shirley Macnamara’s works in spinifex are widely recognised for their beauty, innovation and cultural significance,” exhibition curator Michele Helmrich said.

The exhibition’s centrepiece is a large suspended ‘screen’ that the artist describes as “a landscape of spinifex rings”, crafted from twined coils of spinifex, its surface embedded with feathers and bones collected from the artist’s Country.

The artist’s other works commemorate the forgotten contribution of Aboriginal people in World War I, and reflect on Aboriginal mourning practices, environmental issues and the importance of caring for Country.

Macnamara’s woven basket Nyurruga Muulawaddi 2017, which won the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award in the 2017 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, is also included.

“Her award-winning basket conjures times past when the women sang of their culture and Country as they made their objects.

“The artist expresses her sorrow that they were not allowed to learn those songs, with these songs now lost,” Ms Helmrich said.

Exhibited for the first time are photographs by the artist of the spinifex landscape and the creatures that live in it.

Shirley Macnamara will be in residence at the UQ Art Museum during the exhibition, and will introduce students and visitors to her use of natural materials and the issues that are important to her practice.

Details of programs associated with the residency will be available on the UQ Art Museum website.

Shirley Macnamara: Layered threads continues to 25 November 2018.

The residency is assisted by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and UQ’s Indigenous Design Place.

Source: UQ

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