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A WELCOME MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDER AND PUBLISHING CURATOR

My introduction to Australian Aboriginal Art was in 2007. I was 43 years old. My friend Roy Allan, the Director of AMAGOA (the Aboriginal and Modern Art Gallery of Australia), had just taken delivery of his latest acquisition – an enormous canvas from Nellie Marks Nakamarra. As he enthusiastically unrolled the three-metre-long canvas, I was completely overwhelmed. Nellie’s painting was astonishing, and Roy’s passion for it was immediately contagious.

 

For many years since that experience, the same questions have kept recurring. Why was it that my first experience of our Aboriginal artists only occurred when I was 43 years old? Why had I, as a much younger man, toured Europe marvelling at the European Masters (Rodin, Cezanne, Rembrandt, Monet, Turner, et al), and yet I had had no exposure to the origins or significance of Australian Aboriginal Art? I had never been taught anything about our Indigenous Artists throughout my years of education. We had pored over the significance and value of the Mona Lisa, but never the sacred, ancient stories of our own Indigenous Artists.

 

As the Founding Artistic Director of now defunct Laneway Artspace in St Kilda, I curated several exhibitions of Australian Aboriginal Art, displaying pieces generously provided by AMAGOA. Under Roy’s patient oversight, I learned about the stories behind the paintings, and was honoured to be able to introduce large numbers of other people to the wonder that is the work of our Indigenous Artists. I began studying, reading, meeting Aboriginal Artists, and absorbing as much as I could about this incredible Movement.

 

My ambition to move to Darwin was realised when Roy introduced me to Debra Mason, whose late husband Reg had, in turn, inspired Roy’s passion for Aboriginal Art. I began working at Mason Gallery, and my knowledge was further enhanced by the fastidiousness of Reg and Debra’s meticulous record-keeping of the origin stories and artists they had worked with over many decades in Arnhem Land and the Desert regions. I met more artists in Darwin and throughout the Northern Territory and learned more and more about their work directly from them.

 

Learning about the Australian Aboriginal Art Movement was also a very frustrating experience. Australian Aboriginal Artists are significantly under-represented online, and many of the books published throughout the Movement are no longer in print. In some cases, finding anything at all about an artist yielded zero results, or patchy, contradictory, and inconclusive record-keeping at best. The golden exception to this rule are the art galleries who have tirelessly collated and published biographies of the Aboriginal Artists whose work they present.

 

It was this frustration that led me to create The Indigenous Art Book. My ambition for this site is that it will gradually build to become a website that contains as much detail as possible (and permissible) about the world of Australian Aboriginal Art. I would very much like to know that anyone who has a curiosity about the work of our Indigenous artists, and future generations, can come here to learn and experience as much complete detail as possible about the artworks that define our countries.

 

– Geoffrey Williams, Founder and Publishing Curator, Darwin, Australia

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