Words – Jerram Wurlod

Photos – J Forsyth

NAIDOC Week at Counihan Gallery, 233 Sydney Road, Brunswick, until August 5th, and Blak Dot, 413 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, until July 29th.

I checked out two gallery’s last Thursday exhibiting indigenous art as part of NAIDOC week. The first was at the Couninhan Gallery in the Moreland City Hall on Sydney Rd. It was well attended by eager punters and community leaders alike. We strolled in right on time for an introductory speech from indigenous community leader and activist Aunty Joy. I’ve heard about her leadership and activities over the years and it was a pleasure to hear her speak. She began by giving her own overview of the plight of indigenous Australians and the challenges of the past and those that still need to be overcome. Some of the works, in particular Yhonnie Scarce’s Family Portrait piece exploring the continued issues of alcohol abuse, were incredibly moving. The work displayed a bottle representing each member of her family that had lost their life due to alcohol abuse which in and of itself was striking, but particularly distressing was the empty shelves for those still to come. In response Aunty Joy spoke of the need to refrain from blame and anger and instead face the harsh reality of these deaths front on and discuss ways to overcome these problems. The need to have serious discussions and not just sweep the issue under the carpet. The exhibition itself is the perfect way to bring these and other indigenous issues to the forefront.

Of course there were plenty of positives to be brought out of the exhibition. I particularly enjoyed Christian Thompson and Naretha Williams’ fantastic photography and Ramond Zadas Timeline piece on modern life and the often-absurd integration of social media into our everyday activities. Many of the works have all been donated to the gallery from current owners and it’s a great opportunity to check out some of the nations best contemporary indigenous artists all in the one space. Picture This runs until the 5th of August.

The second exhibition for the evening was at Blak Dot on Lygon St in Brunswick. After nearly forgetting to pick up some friends who had mysteriously been side tracked at Resurrection, we walked into the party that was FUSION. A collaboration between indigenous and non indigenous artists, the place was pumping and so was the art. In particular, the graff-based pieces not only encouraged the pumping vibe, they actually managed to become the coolest guests in the room. Despite being packed in like sardines the works forced there way into the party from every wall and divider becoming the loudest guests in the room.

Refusing to be swallowed by the white gallery walls, each piece was accompanied by surrounding artwork that became a continuation of the piece on the wall it was hung on. It prompted one of my mates to ask if purchasing a piece meant you could take the accompanying wall as well. You could forgive him for wanting to, so well did the whole set up work. Also on display with several pieces were the tools of the trade. Items or representations of, that had been used to create the works. Wooden fence palings (the practice canvas of choice for many graff artists) old spray cans, paint rollers and latex. It all worked beautifully and combined for a very cool experience. The opening was supposed to run until 8pm. We begrudgingly left at 8:30pm and there was no sign of things abating at that stage. So if you’re looking for contemporary indigenous art with a grimy edge look no further than Blak Dot this month. The exhibition runs until the 29th of July.