I hope you are well, another Monday over, it all gets easier from here on, and I am looking forward to catching up with you at the weekend. Today I have a little lesson in someone you may not have heard of, but google her work for a pleasant surprise.
Contextual Focus Point
Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, although she was probably well versed in traditional aboriginal art such as sand and body painting did not come to fame until the late nineteen seventies when a philanthropist introduced her community to the Indonesian art of Batik. Ten years later her community was introduced by CAAMA (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) to acrylic paints, Emily’s star blossomed and from 1988 until her death in 1996 in a burst of creativity comparable to that of Van Gogh she completed more than 3000 paintings.
Emily’s paintings were inspired by her dreams and her local area of Utopia in Central Australia not far from Alice Springs where she lived for her whole life. That her paintings were inspired by a particular locale is not unusual in art history, I have already written in project 1 of this part of the course about what it is in a landscape painting that an artist chooses to make special and how that works. Examples abound of landscape artists fascinated by their locale, from Vincent and Gauguin being fascinated by wherever they happened to be at the time, to Constable and his constant depictions of East Sussex, on to Lowry’s paintings of the north of England and of course the impressionist’s works idealise the Parisian suburbs, Monet’s back garden not forgetting Cezanne’s Mountain, that was worth a pastiche in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The aboriginal culture went from the magical age to the scientific age missing out religion age and dreams have retained their magical significance to aborigines, it is probably no worries that Emily was inspired by her dreams. This dream is also fertile territory for European artists, though the significance of dreams was popularised in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by Freud and other Psychoanalysts.
There are such quotes as “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream” Vincent Van Gogh and “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” Henri Matisse, and even “Colour what a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams” Paul Gauguin.
It is perhaps with the surrealists that crediting dreams with inspiration reached its zenith in European art, with artists striving for that time between waking and sleeping with alcohol and drugs. It may not have been the influence of either that caused Dali to remark “One day it will have to be officially admitted that what we have christened reality is an even greater illusion than the world of dreams” or Magritte’s “What really is inside, and what is outside? What do we have here: reality, or a dream? If a dream is a revelation of waking life, waking life is also a revelation of a dream.” Dreams have a very special place in art and aboriginal culture.
Emily had three phases of painting during her brief career, and although Emily, we are led to believe, had no knowledge of worldwide art, the lines call to mind Bridget Riley, the dots call to mind Van Gogh, Kusama and Seurat and the patches evoke Manet and the colour field expressionists. There is also a correlation to be drawn between Emily’s work and Kandinsky’s book “Point and line and plane”
Either everything is starting to join up for me or someone with more knowledge of psychoanalysis and indigenous Australian people could write a book on these connections.
Dream on Bruce.
The research for this essay was carried out entirely on the internet but as I am no specialist on either aboriginal culture or Emily Kame Kngwarreye I would suggest that you do your own research to affirm the impressions I have garnered in my own research, so that my impressions do not colour your thinking. I imagine if I was living in Australia I would have a better understanding of both Emily and aboriginal culture and it would be possible to further research my theories. I would welcome any comments from readers “down under” in this regard.
Well there you go darling, something new is always worth learning.
My love as always