I’ve got the show to blow away that 2022 pessimism. One of my all-time favourites is on right now in Adelaide and there’s only a week left to see it.
Tarnanthi 2021, at Art Gallery of South Australia until January 30, under the artistic direction of national treasure Nici Cumpston, is – in my opinion – the best annual survey of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The title – pronounced tar-nan-dee – really says it all. It comes from the language of the Kaurna people, who are the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains, and it means to come forth or appear, like the sun and the first emergence of light. Isn’t that exquisite?
The Tarnanthi exhibition is just part of a much wider festival of arts stretching across South Australia, with partner venues presenting more than 30 exhibitions.
The exhibition will expand your understanding of Indigenous practice with a particular focus on materials, and unexpected ones at that. Highlights include John Prince Siddon’s trippy paintings on canvas but also bullock skulls and kangaroo pelts. They are absolutely extraordinary and sort of manic – you get the sense he will paint on anything he can lay his hands on.
Yankunytjatjara artist Kaylene Whiskey has some brilliantly witty and fun pop paintings that meld her fascination with pop culture with traditional knowledge. She is such a contemporary art star.
To demonstrate the complete diversity on offer, there are beautiful works by Gwenneth Blitner, whose tropical landscapes of Gulf Country offer something completely opposite to the desert artists from Irrunytju, for example, with their paintings on junk car parts.
Maree Clarke (who most recently has been the subject of a superb solo show at the NGV in Melbourne) has made some of her signatures exquisite pieces from reeds and feathers, echidna quills, and found and cast-glass kangaroo teeth.
Nici Cumpston is particularly adept at making us ask the hard questions and consider the intricacies and complexities of a sometimes-contentious history, inviting artist Julie Gough to make a dialogue with the superb colonial paintings and furniture from AGSA’s collection. This curation tells a nuanced story finding meaning from the past.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com