THREE DESERTS SINGING
Much of the Western Desert from which the Martu hail is red sand hill country covered in spinifex, gums, desert oaks and other shrubs and trees with rocky hills dotted with caves. To most European eyes, the Western Desert is a harsh, barren landscape but to the Martu it is country filled with water, food, abundance of life and resources, each with a name and a story that is part of a larger Dreaming Story from when their ancestors shaped the country. The stories were turned into songs, which also, like the paintings, represented a map to their country as they walked in their bush days.
Alongside the wild colourful patterning of the paintings are layers of their sophisticated and precise understanding of their vast homelands. Stories encoded on the canvases tell of ancestors, journeys, dangers, water and food sources, reflecting the Martu way of the knowing the world.
As Martu artist Morika Biljabu explains:
“The Paintings are the country, the country are the songs, the songs are the dance – it’s not all separate, it’s all the one thing connected.’’
Many of our featured artists, including Jakayu Biljabu and Bugai Whyoutler, have won or been finalists in numerous Australian art awards and prizes. Both Bugai Whyoulter and Jakayu Biljabu were named by Art Collector as contemporary Australian artists to watch.
The profile of Martu art has also risen considerably in recent years, with their artists being featured in several major Australian and international exhibitions – including Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Show in 2014, the Canning Stock Route Project in 2010 and Fremantle Arts Centre ‘We Don’t Need A Map’ 2012 - 2016. Martu work is now collected by all of Australia’s state collections and Mulyatingki Marney features in the Queen’s Collection.
All the Martu artists exhibiting,excluding filmmaker Curtis Taylor, had their first contact with Europeans in the 1960s, most notably when Martu homeland was used as a government rocket testing range in 1964.
Three Deserts Singing also features a unique photographic collaboration between Melbourne photographer Tobias Titz and Martumili Artists, allowing the artists to be seen and represented alongside the paintings. In 2009 Tobias photographed the artists with large format Polaroid film, asking the artists to share in the image making process by scratching images of their country in the wet emulsion
of the negative.
Three Deserts Singing is also showcasing ‘The Phone Booth Project, 2012’, a three split screen video installation by Martu filmmaker Curtis Taylor and Melbourne artist Lily Hibberd, in collaboration with the Western Desert Martu communities of Parnngurr and Punmu from the Fremantle Arts Centre exhibition ‘We don’t need a Map’. The film gives an insight into daily life of the communities and the adoption of modern technologies to continue the Martu tradition of communicating with each other across vast distances.
Notes to Editors
The exhibition is free and will be held between 2-15 November 2015 at 90 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 79F
Frewen Arts, www.frewenarts.com, curate fresh, contemporary, multi-media exhibitions that showcase vibrant, emerging artists. Specialising in Antipodean and Middle Eastern works, they collaborate closely with artists to create inspiring exhibitions, taking care to represent the authentic spirit of the work.
Martumili Artists, www.martumili.com.au, is an Aboriginal-owned Art Centre, based in Newman, Western Australia, established in late 2006. It supports Martu Artists including painters, weavers, filmmakers and photographers from the desert communities of Kunawarritiji, Punmu, Parnngurr, Jigalong, Warralong, Nullagine and Newman in Western Australia. The Martu are the traditional owners and native title holders for 13.6 million hectares of the Western Desert with distances between their communities stretching over 860km.
All works are sold with the artist’s knowledge and Certificate of Authenticity.
Frewen Arts gratefully acknowledges the help and collaboration with the following;
and film-maker Lily Hibberd: www.lilyhibberd.com