This is an unusual piece for me in several ways. First, it is essentially an abstract, even if you can argue that you recognize some anatomical elements in it, three faces, six hands, six feet, etc…, but not much more than that. Second, it is inspired by Australian aboriginal art. Last December I visited Australia for the first time and seen Sydney and Melbourne and surroundings. The biggest impression on me was what I saw in their aboriginal art sections of their National Museums. I was stunned. The folk art of Australia, if you can call it that way, resembles in no way the folk or pre-historical art of European, Chinese, or Indian, or African, or even meso-American origin. To my astonishment it is almost entirely abstract! Obviously, it was an astounding discovery only for me, and I am sure the professional literature is abundant of writings on that subject.
The images shown below, are those that inspired me the most: I saw them in different places: Art Gallery of New South Wales at Sydney and the National Gallery of Virginia at Melbourne: left, by unknown, Lightning Spirit and the Fish, drawing on bark; right, an unidentified work from the National Gallery at Melbourne (I am working on finding the author and title). I leave it to anybody’s imagination to interpret the detailed meaning of these pieces.
Fig. 1 Direct inspirations for my work. The work to the right is a textile, with the form suggesting, maybe a shield, but rather ceremonial than real, as it would be very easy to puncture it, and to the left is a mystic piece on a bark sheet, Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa (Women’s digging stick Dreaming) 1986, by Biddy Napanangka Hutchinson
There are three things that hit me most eminently about Australian aboriginal art: this is largely an abstract art; this is an art that uses lot of dots and hatchings (these dot patterns apparently are their ancient writings that yet are to be deciphered by the contemporary man). There is perception that these dots are sand grains, but personally I am not convinced of that idea. Another hypothesis you read about is that they (dots and hatchings) served to confuse an uninvited viewer about sacred meaning of the drawings. The dot art evolved into color paintings in 1970s when an art teacher named Geoffrey Bardon encouraged his indigenous students of Alice Springs in the region of Papunya in Western Desert to paint as murals the traditional pictures that they would normally draw on sand as part of sacred rituals.
(Left) Lumah Lumah, the dream time figure, by January Nanganyari-Namiridali, earth pigments on bark, ca 1970; (middle) A shark in a catch-box, An unknow artist; (right) Didgeridoo is an aboriginal instrument (T.H. 2016)
The third thing about the Australian aboriginal art is the dominance of sand-like hues. Especially the early art is all in rusty colors of the desert around the aboriginal people. This is even more dominant when you see that lot of that art is produced on the bark of eucalypti.
The title I used “The musicians” comes from my interpretation of the backbones of the three individuals in the work. As I could not understand the meaning of the role of people on that shield, I fantasized that these might be a didgeridoo players. Didgeridoo is an iconic Australian instrument made of a trunk of a young eucaliptus tree hollowed by termites. However, the didgeridoo is a solid pipe, with no holes, nothing like a flute. Just a pipe. Often richly decorated, but not always, as seen on my photo taken at a street in Sydney Harbour.