Review: Martumili Artists & Spinifex Hill Artists, “Pujiman” ·
The Goods Shed ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·
“Pujiman” is a travelling exhibition presented by Form, featuring works created during a two-year collaboration between Martumili Artists and Spinifex Hill Artists, two Aboriginal art centres from the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The title “Pujiman”, a word which means “desert born and dwelling”, refers to the last living generation of Aboriginal artists to lead traditional lifestyles. This collaborative project links pujiman painters, including Nora Wompi and Jakayu Biljabu, to a younger generation of emerging Aboriginal artists, who have been encouraged to develop their creative practices.
Presenting the results of such a valuable community project, “Pujiman” emphasises the importance of sharing knowledge and culture within Aboriginal communities, honouring senior artists, and celebrating intergenerational learning. In the words of senior Martumili artist Nola Ngalangka Taylor, “There’s so much lost, but we need to keep sharing to keep it alive.”
A week-long artist camp was arranged as part of the project, which saw 26 artists travel to Punmu community to work with creative facilitators including, Steven Aiton and Andy Quilty. The exhibition includes some video footage from this camp, which gives insight into the communal creation of the large-scale paintings, and the charming stop-motion sand animations that are also screened. In this documentary footage, viewers can watch the development of many of the exhibited paintings including Wilarra, a three metre long work by Mulyatingki Marney and May Maywokka Chapman.
Featuring gestural dotwork around fields of wide, emotive brushstrokes, this stunning painting depicts the site of Wilarra near Punmu, which is adjacent to the salt lake Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora). In the wall text accompanying Wilarra, Mulyatingki explains the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) story of the site and the salt lake, emphasising the deep connection between culture and land.
Many of the paintings in the exhibition have been created to encompass the traditional significance, uses and narratives of different landscapes within the Pilbara region. Karlamilyi, Big Country, Big Area, a tall painting by Wokka Taylor and Nancy Karnu Taylor, functions as a husband and wife’s collaborative depiction of Nancy’s ngurra (home country).
Other artworks illustrate recent events and stories, such as Doreen Chapman’s energising Camel Chase, and the Captain Hedland comic book page by teenage artist Layne Dhu Dickie who featured in the “Revealed” exhibition at the Fremantle Arts Centre last year. Equally captivating are the smaller figurative works, which include Wendy Nanji’s stylised pencil portraits of senior artists, and Owen Biljabu’s acrylic paintings of community leaders.
“Pujiman” brings together an engaging and diverse collection of contemporary Aboriginal art, celebrating the art centres of the Pilbara region as hubs of continued cultural collaboration and creative excellence.
We all know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of the contemporary romantic film. She’s that off-beat, mysterious one, that free thinker who enables the male hero to shake off the shackles of his dull, suburban life… and though she may seem carefree, she’s a problematic figure, defined and delineated by her relationship to a male protagonist.
In “Magical Woman”, an art exhibition curated by Aisyah Aaqil Sumito and Sophie Nixon, she’s being utilised differently, however. A platform for six emerging female and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture, “Magical Woman” invites artists to use the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work, while taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion. Nina Levy spoke to Sumito and Nixon to find out more.
Nina Levy: I think most of us are familiar with the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) but can you talk about who the MPDG is and what she represents?
Sophie Nixon: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a colourful and quirky character who exists to uplift, enrich and fulfil the
lives of white-male protagonists. Think of films like 500 days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you pay enough attention you may catch these women encouraging the male protagonist to try new things and step outside of his comfort zone.
Manic Pixie Dream Girls are characterised as having bubbly and eclectic exteriors, often partnered with underlying poor mental health; this is often romanticised as being part of their “quirk” to add seeming depth, mystery and intrigue to the character – a plot device in the central character’s narrative.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito: Referring back to what Sophie said about encouraging centralised male characters to “live”… these characters are infantilised by their inability to communicate their feelings, how they act, and what they enjoy – while simultaneously being granted the emotional capacity to teach these men how to live their lives (almost like mothering). It’s a harmful and unrealistic representation of women that is very ingrained in our ways of seeing things. In more simple terms, it affects the way that we interact, and the warped standards that women and non-binary folk hold ourselves to – even if we don’t fit into the mould of a trope that applies to a very specific demographic.
NL: What made you decide to take the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the starting point for this exhibition? AAS: “Magical Woman” began as a means to vent about frustrations and representations of women in media. Initially we were only planning to respond to Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope itself – a small, spunky project that we would use to rock the boat. The longer we looked for a venue, the more time I had to actually think about this particular trope and how transgressive critiquing it would actually be, and how beneficial it would be for the artists. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a trope that only applies to white cisgender women. With that considered, I wanted to encourage the artists to go a bit deeper than the trope itself, critically engaging with intersections of racism, misogyny, trans exclusion, and queer exclusion, regardless of what kind of work they decided they would make. For me it’s really important that it is distinguished as a starting point, and that our exhibition is a small contribution to an ever-expanding conversation.
NL: You’re co-curating “Magical Woman” – how did you meet? And what made you decide to work together? AAS: Sophie and I met around February 2017, for an exhibition that I curated alongside Olivia Tartaglia at City Arts Space for Propel Youth Art’s 2017 KickstART Festival “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”. Beyond the work we do as artists and as curators, we are good friends. Working together to embody discussions we have on a regular basis, in the form of a curated exhibition, was really beneficial and a huge learning curve for both of us.
SN: Outside of “Magical Woman”, I’m working to complete my honours in Fine Art at Curtin University and hustling odd-jobs. As Aisyah mentioned, we met within the happenings of the “Symbiosis exhibition”. I was a participating artist in mentorship with Jess Day, and Aisyah was co-curator with Olivia Tartaglia in a skillshare/mentorship context. Shortly after that, I produced work for another show that Aisyah curated alongside Claire Bushby. I remember being so in awe (still am to be honest) of Aisyah, their dedication, professionalism and how they carried themselves as a curator. For both of us, this is our first time curating independently (outside the program of a mentorship/institution). Knowing Aisyah and I were in this together made the process of applying for shows and grants so much easier, I don’t know if I would have had the same amount of courage, ambition and motivation if they weren’t there.
NL: You’re both emerging curators as well as visual artists… what draws you to curating? What are the challenges/rewards of being a curator? AAS: My first curatorial project was “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”, since then I’ve curated “Borders and Transitions” (in mentorship with Claire Bushby) and “The Corsini Collection: Revisited” (in mentorship with Dunja Rmandić), all of which have been hugely rewarding learning experiences. Before I took on these projects, I was really interested in the role of the curator, and how that role fostered growth for emerging artists in a gallery context. It was something I started thinking about when I visited my first Paper Mountain exhibition “Stay/Keep” (2014), curated by Melissa McGrath.
I find working with artists, pushing their conceptual development, as well as their capacity to do and be better (despite inevitably recurring moments of doubt) incredibly rewarding. For the most part, balancing unpaid administrative labour within my curatorial practice, and setting my boundaries so that I don’t burn out from overwork, have been the most challenging aspects of curating. “Magical Woman” is the first show I have co-curated beyond a mentorship context, which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.
SN: During the last year (2016) of my Bachelor of Fine Art at Curtin, I was the student coordinator of the graduate showcase exhibition, which included organising several fundraising exhibitions. This experience gave me a taste for arts management and curating. After that I completed an internship at PSAS in Fremantle under the wing of their director Tom Mùller, which saw me curate an exhibition of their studio artists.
When it comes to the opening night I usually have this moment of stillness where I really take it in: reflecting on where it started and seeing a show in its resolution. It’s a very wholesome feeling. I think that’s what drives me to keep curating. One of the most challenging things about curating for me personally is managing my time between curatorial duties and honours research.
7-23 September @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Drug Aware and Propel Youth Arts ·
Opening Night: Co-curators Nixon and Sumito invite everyone to come along to the official opening of Magical Woman, and to meet each of the talented artists amongst an energetic celebration of queer and women art in Perth. Opening night event will be held Friday 7 September 6-8pm in Paper Mountain’s main gallery.
Exhibition open to public: Saturday 8 – 23 September, 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Friday, and 11am – 4pm on weekends
Curator & Artist Talk: A Curator & Artist Talk event will be held in Paper Mountain’s main gallery Wednesday 12 September 6pm. Facilitated by Megan Hyde (Adjunct Teaching Fellow, Cultural Precinct, UWA) and Carly Lynch (Artist), this event will offer an in-depth view into the motivations of the artists and curators, and a reflection on the outcomes of the exhibition.
Magical Woman is a public art exhibition set to be displayed in the main gallery of Paper Mountain Artist-Run Initiative. It has been developed to provide a platform for six emerging women and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture. Taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion — artists have used the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work.
Emerging artists, Amy McGivern, Astro Francis, Sam Huxtable, Shannon Marlborough, Natsumi de Dianous and Pip Lewi have worked closely with Sumito and Nixon. Producing work across a variety of mediums including: animation, comic art, video, installation, textile soft-sculpture and ceramics.
29 June – 6 July @ Spectrum Project Space ·
Presented by Perth Comics Art Festival (PCAF) ·
Opening Friday, 29 June, 1:10pm – 2:10pm
Runs daily 30 June to 6 July 10am – 5pm
Edith Cowan University’s (ECU) Spectrum Project Space proudly presents Comics West celebrating the last thirty years of comic making in Western Australia, including comics pages, illustrations, digital comics and augmented reality.
Making comics is a hidden activity, occurring in home studios as a side job for many of its makers. Comics artists spend many long hours perfecting their skillsets as makers of comics, be it writing, drawing with pencils and inks, painting with acrylics, gouache and watercolours, digital tablets and programs that end up in printed or online. There can be a considerable difference between the original work and what is seen as the end product.
This exhibition will feature 24 artists who employ a diverse range of tools and materials that go into making comics. Comics West organizer, Bruce Mutard says “from Shaun Tan’s versatility with traditional materials, Mel Tregonning’s facility with the graphite pencil, to Stuart Campbell’ scrolling digital comics and augmented reality (which viewers will be able to download the required apps to view), or Hien Pham’s choose-your-own-adventure queer love stories, you will see that comics are more than what Robert Crumb once described as ‘just lines on paper, folks’.”
Comics West has been created to showcase the comics that have been made and are being made throughout Western Australia. All the artists were either born in WA, resided here for some time, have moved here or have moved on. They all have a connection to WA.
“My hope is that viewers will see that there is a thriving hub of comics making in this state and that it’s not all just costumed superheroes” said Mr Mutard.
Comics West will be open to the public from Friday, 29 June to Friday, 6 July at Spectrum Project Space, Mount Lawley Campus, Edith Cowan University.
Exhibiting artists: Shaun Tan, Justin Randall, Emily Smith, Ben Templesmith, Ashley Wood, Bruce Mutard, Carol Wood & Susan Butcher, Gary Chaloner, Stuart Campbell, Aly Faye, Campbell Whyte, Andrei Buters, Alyce Sarich, Hien Pham, Leonie Brialey, Andrew Richardson, Shane Tholen, Aśka, Skye Odgen, Mel Tregonning, Stuart Medley, Nathan Viney and ECU Illustration students.