Above: Mabel Juli, Wardal doo Garn’giny, 2021, natural ochres and charcoal on linen, 90 x 120 cm.
GARN’GINY NOT GRANITE
(Moon Dreaming not Granite Mining)
Exhibition dates: Wed-Sat May 19-22 | Wed-Fri May 26-28 | 11-4
Lyrical art for Country
This important exhibition features three generations of the same family of East Kimberley artists – the 89-year-old Mabel Juli – one of Australia’s most revered senior artists, her daughter, 43-year-old Marlene Juli and her 24-year-old granddaughter Atlanta Mercy Umbulgurri.
The genesis for the exhibition was the damage that had been done to the artists’ Country and their Dreaming sites by granite mining exploration on their East Kimberley lands at Springvale Station, between Halls Creek and Warmun in 2019 and 2020. A groundswell of support for the artists and other traditional owners was sparked when the issue came to public attention in 2019. The Kimberley Land Council is representing the artists and a nationwide online campaign garnkinynotgranite.com was established.
A petition protesting the works now has more than 30,000 signatories.
With the shadow of the Pilbara’s Juukan Gorge and Victoria’s Djab Wurrung trees still looming large, damage to Aboriginal cultural heritage sites is a topical – and ongoing – issue.
All the works in this exhibition amply demonstrate the importance of such sites and what would be lost if they were to be destroyed. Mabel Juli’s evocative, spare Garn’giny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming) paintings epitomise the ‘big story’ such sites represent – taking us to the heart of human experience of love, mortality, kinship and obligation
The exhibition features 21 works by Mabel Juli. These include a number of new Moon Dreaming paintings as well as those relating other ancient stories such as the Rainbow Serpent (Goorlabal) and Woman Singing out for her Dog. Mabel Juli’s stellar 25-year career includes representation in more than 100 group exhibitions in Australia’s leading public and private galleries and many solo shows. An 8 times finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and winner of Melbourne University’s Kate Challis RAKA Award, Mabel Juli’s work is in the collections of many Australian public galleries and significant private collections internationally.
Included also are two of Mrs Juli’s significant historical pieces that relate a violent 1940s incident when pastoralist Tom Quilty beat a young Gija boy and Mrs Juli’s father defended him.
Other works feature the wildlife of Darrajayin Country and places of significance, such as Mrs Juli’s brother’s birthplace and her grandfather’s burial place – a site now obscured by piles of displaced earth and shattered rock from mining explorations.
Marlene Juli paints Goorlabal the Rainbow Serpent who travelled to Springvale Station to find water. Today the Serpent’s gargantuan body lies as stone stretching across a large expanse of Country. During the mining explorations, the black granite that comprised sections of the Serpent’s tail was extracted leaving other stone sections of the tail broken into large shards and strewn on the land.
Talented 24-year-old Atlanta Mercy Umbulgurri has inherited the rights to paint her grandmother’s famous Dreaming story of the moon and the equally epic Old Woman Singing Out for her Dog – that relates the battles of the ancestral dingo and kangaroo.
In her interpretation of these stories with a new and fresh vision, Atlanta Umbulgurri’s striking black and whites and soft yellow and pink ochres are powerful reminders of the continuity offered by art to maintain, celebrate and honour these ancient stories and the vital importance of preserving the lands on which they are held.
They also introduce this young artist – exhibiting in a major show here for the first time – as an impressive new talent for this famous school of East Kimberley ochre painters.