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Aborignal Contemporary, artwork by Rachel Lionel
Photograph: suppliedAborignal Contemporary, artwork by Rachel Lionel

You can digitally walk around this Aboriginal art exhibition

A collaboration with Ernabella Arts uses German technology to power virtual art gallery experience

Written by
Stephen A Russell

Bronte art gallery Aboriginal Contemporary didn't let the lockdown limit its ambition. Quite the opposite. Although folks can't walk through the doors physically, the team have turned to technology to open their horizons way beyond Sydney's beloved beaches.  

Aboriginal Contemporary teamed up with remote community art centre Ernabella Arts in APY lands in northwest South Australia, and virtual gallery exhibition Ngamampa Tjukurpa Ananyi Kakarara – or Our Stories Going East – is the result. Using 3D tech supplied by German company Kunstmatrix, you can walk around a 3D replication of Aboriginal Contemporary, zooming in to take a closer look at each artwork without leaving the safety of your sofa.

“Artists and their communities are relying on our support more than ever,” gallery owner Nichola Dare says. We had to look for a new way to bring this exciting work from the artists to our customers. Thanks to new technical capabilities from Berlin, this is a truly interactive way to view an exhibition. You can actually walk around the gallery, zooming in on each painting, and a simple click on the audio allows you to learn the story behind the artwork.”

Dare curated the collection of paintings, ceramics and sculpture in collaboration with the creative team at Ernabella. Senior artists Yurpiya Lionel, Tjunkaya Tapaya and Carlene Thompson and emerging talents Janice Stanley, Michelle Lewis and Rachael Mipantjitji Lionel crafted the paintings. The ceramics echo the tradition of Milpatjunanyi, where Pitjantjatjara women pass on stories to children through songs and marks in the sand, a technique known as scraffito. Ernabella’s ceramists make similar marks in soft clay before their work is glazed, fired and emerges as poignant metaphors for holding and protecting ancient stories.

The sculptural works are picked from the Piruku Nintintjaku – Nyakunytjakuproject. Supported by Australia Council’s CHOSEN funding program, the groundbreaking initiative allowed young men in the community to go on Country and work with elders to produce both traditional Anangu tools and contemporary interpretations of them.

Alison Milyika Carroll, Ernabella Arts chairperson, says the centre has a long history of innovation. “Ernabella has always looked to find new ways to share the old ways and we are happy that our stories are going East to Sydney, we have made good art for other people to see and think about.”

You can check out the digital gallery here. And check out Destiny Deacon's photography in Art Gallery NSW's digital offering

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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Image: Supplied

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