Reviews/Visual Art

Sugar and spice at Marawar-ak

14 December 2022

From introspection to tongue-in-cheek fun, two complementary exhibitions at Fremantle Arts Centre transport Jaimi Wright.

‘Still Watching’, Anna Louise Richardson and Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, and ‘The Rin Din Dai’, Tyrown Waigana ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·

The word “chiaroscuro”, as an artistic term, refers to a strong contrast between light and shadow. The resulting dynamism can make for affecting and emotional pieces of artwork.

Such dynamism is created by the contrasting tones of exhibitions “Still Watching” by artist couple Anna Louise Richardson and Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, and “The RinDin Dai” by Wandandi Noongar and Ait Koedal artist Tyrown Waigana, both presented as part of “Marawar-ak | From the West” at Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC).

“Still Watching” is characterised by a deep and rich sense of introspection and perception, while “The RinDin Dai” is pure tongue-in-cheek fun, fuelled by a powerful imagination. Each of these exhibition’s strengths accentuates the other, which makes for utterly transporting viewing experiences.

“Marawar-ak | From the West: Contemporary Art from Western Australia” is a collection of four exhibitions celebrating local artists who work across design, animation, sculpture, drawing and installation practices. “Marawar-ak” is a Noongar word, and the program is inspired by the cooling winds on hot summer days that are associated with the Noongar seasons Kambarang, Birak and Bunuru.

In keeping with that theme these four exhibitions provide refreshing new perspectives on personal mythos within our regional and remote landscapes, and beyond. Although the other two exhibitions that are included in “Marawar-ak” – “Backtrack” by Katie Breckon and “A Gift and a Shadow” by Sally Bower – are not included in this review, they are also well worth a look.

As you step into its gallery space “Still Watching” envelopes you in dark walls, full of anticipation and unknowing. This heady mix is created through Abdullah and Richardson’s exploration of spiritual introspection and perception; the act of seeing the natural world, and in turn being seen by it.

Curated by FAC’s Glenn Iseger-Pilkington from a collective body of work that spans almost a decade and is inspired by the artists’ time living and working on their pastoral property, “Still Watching” engages the audience in the act of presence.

Abdullah’s Pair (2022) sits at the centre of the largest room, composed of two breathtaking and meticulously crafted life-size sheep, their faces painstakingly carved from wood, and their fleece woven locally by the Golden Wattle Hookers.

The sheep are based on a very real pair regularly encountered by the artists’ children; each species too timid to approach the other. Abdullah has created the sheep’s gaze with such accuracy that the viewer is put in the place of the children, being viewed by something they recognise as “other”.

Richardson’s Post (2015) sits across from the sheep; an enormous and surreal night-scape perspective in conte on cement fibreboard on hollow core door. Spread over four panels the work depicts a lone fence post illuminated by headlights in the all-consuming darkness of the paddock around it.

An expression of Richardson’s fear of the dark and subsequent loss of directionality, the post has an eerie and existential presence, like a relic from an alien landscape, and makes the viewer feel as though they are inexplicably being watched.

“The RinDin Dai” (2022), on the other hand is an explosion of colour and gleeful imagination.

The exhibition centres on a mixed media installation, which details a ritual taking place on the strange planet of Bupida-H71. A cute race of small, blue, round, cartoon-style beings called the Hongels live on Bupida-H71, and RinDin Dai is the ceremonial day in which they ask their great (but not so benevolent) creator Vord solutions to their various problems.

A work from Marawak depicting small, cute blue creatures standing on golden sand.
Tyrown Waigana, ‘The RinDin Dai’ (installation view), 2022, courtesy of the artist. Photo: Miles Noel

However, much like a genie in a bottle, Vord’s solutions often have unexpected consequences.

After viewing the incredibly detailed and thoughtful installation of Vord suspended on a cloud, bestowing his backhanded solutions onto the hapless Hongels below, as well as the Hongels’ amusing and glassy-eyed telecast of the event, you as the viewer are invited to participate in RinDin Dai. By spinning a wheel with allocated numbers and answers, you reveal your RinDin Dai reward, as well as what you must sacrifice for said reward.

I spun the wheel and won peace and quiet at the cost of ever finding jeans that fit right, and I assure you, I will process that pain on my own time.

“The RinDin Dai” was commissioned by Fremantle Arts Centre as part of their engagement program, which focuses on commissions that encourage curiosity, wonder and interaction. “The RinDin Dai” has these qualities in spades, which is why I think it would make a perfect family affair, and a brilliant starting point to exhibitions for younger viewers. It is the most adorable way to say, “be careful what you wish for.”

“Still Watching” and “The RinDin Dai “are not so much chalk and cheese as sugar and spice; the darkness of one complements the light heart of the other, and both are a delight on the palette.

The four exhibitions that comprise “Marawar-ak | From the West” continue until 22 January 2023.

Pictured top: Abdul Rahman-Abdullah, ‘Pair’, 2022. Photo: Miles Noel

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi is a Development Coordinator for ARTRAGE and your friendly neighbourhood arts writer. She also writes for Art Almanac and ArtsHub as she cannot keep still. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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