Visitors daily flying into Brisbane International Airport are welcomed by a sensational mural. It represents the untiring zeal of one significant artist and senior from Bentinck Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Kaiadilt woman Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924–2015).
While looking abstract, the patterns and forms that were Gabori’s abiding passion, are about the ever changing light as it illuminated the natural colours of the landscape, which surrounded her daily in her ancestral home; the sensational seascape and sunburned country, which inspired her works of art.
The exhibition Dulka Warngiid – Land of All now on display in Queensland, has been developed under the guidance of QAGOMA Curator of Indigenous Australian Art Bruce McLean. It showcases many of Gabori’s most loved works from the gallery’s own, as well as private and public collections around Australia.
By the time Australia was being federated (1901) works of art universally had come to represent a very special kind of imaginative truth. Creative people were believed to have something essential in common; an exalted ability that elevated them above the mere talented to a higher aesthetic plane, one where as an artist their work reflected a change in the ideas of the nature and purpose of art.
Taking its title from the Kayardild language name for Bentinck Island, which translates as “the whole world”, Gabori’s retrospective reflects on the many stories contained within the enormous body of work she produced after she commenced painting in 2005 at the age of 81.
From that time onward until her passing, she produced over 2000 works full of ‘loss, longing and love’.
QAGOMA Director Chris Saines said Gabori’s work reveals her incredible ‘… instinct for vibrant colour, bold forms and gestural brushstrokes, and her deep connection to both country and her home, Bentinck Island’.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori communicated her ideas through her considerable mastery of form and colour.
Her canvases sing unique songs through her art about the characteristics and the strengths of her indigenous culture.
Gabori’s life on Bentinck Island after she was born in 1924, was all about living a traditional life, fishing and gathering bush foodstuffs.
She did not have a conventional schooling, because she was too old by the time missionaries arrived in the 1940’s to teach the local children.
While she mastered many other skills, Sally spoke little English and never did learn how to read and write.
However, it did not stop her from telling us her stories through her own unique way of seeing the world.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori nurtures us all with the characteristics of the glories of the light she spent a life time studying, of the intricacies and boldness of the patterns she produced with the help of a natural palette, and above all, the realities and the tactile quality of her textures.
The exhibition resonates ‘… with her deep connection to story places on Bentinck Island,” says QAGOMA Director, Chris Saines.
This includes her pivotal early work, Dibirdibi Country – Topway 2006 and her acclaimed monumental six-metre canvases Dibirdibi Country 2008, which features six clashing and complimentary colours as well as a major six-metre collaborative work, painted alongside six other artists; her sisters and nieces
Makarrki – King Alfred’s Country 2008 is yet another expansive work, rich in colour and texture produced in synthetic polymer paint on canvas depicting the country where King Alfred, a senior Kaiadilt law man had to lead the entire population when all the people were uprooted because of severe drought and moved by European settlers to Mornington Island in 1948.
Its colours clash in a splendid dichotomy that depicts the ‘rockalled fish traps and sea country of Dibirdibi’.
One of her later career master works is the four-panelled Dibirdibi Country 2012, a striking monochromatic painting on linen, which boldly represent her father’s place.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori has given Australians all the gift of an amazing cultural legacy, one that will endure. The exhibition will move to Melbourne and open at the NGV Australia in Federation Square on September 23 – January 29, 2017.
QAG | GALLERY 3, GALLERY 4, WATERMALL, BRISBANE
May 21 – August 28, 2016
NGV AUSTRALIA, FLOOR 3, FEDERATION SQUARE, MELBOURNE
September 23 – January 29, 2017