Friday, April 15, 2011
Daniel Walbidi reminds me what art can do
"People prefer looking at our art rather than listening to us. I think [non-Aboriginal people] need to not only admire our art for its colour and its beauty but also for the significance of it, because I guess our art is our voice now." - Daniel Walbidi from here
I went as part of a small family posse to the Newcastle Region Art Gallery yesterday. We were drawn there by the Hanssen Pigott/Morandi exhibition which was calmly stylish. What ended up happening was that the other exhibitions clamoured for attention. If you ever despair about the self-obsession, shallowness and vacuity of "young people today" get to an ArtExpress exhibition. You'll see proof that teenagers think deeply, care passionately and are creative and articulate. I think I've allowed myself to forget this. It's now over 30 years since I was a teenager but if you'd labelled me then with any of the broad cliches applied to youth now I'd have felt like attacking you. Or walking a long way away.
This was the first gallery experience I've had for years where everything was good. Each of the exhibition spaces had something dynamic and exciting to still and stimulate the mind and to calm and excite the heart.
What lingers the strongest though is Speaking in Colour and in particular the work of Daniel Walbidi. At first I passed them by "oh yeah, Aboriginal contemporary art - again - these are pretty colourful - show me the ceramics" but I had to keep going back. And Daniel Walbidi's work? Firstly - "Woh, daddy! that's bright!" and then "Looks good, but" and then "Hang on, that's beautiful" and then "What's he done there?" at this point I was about to start picking at the paint with my fingernail, just at the edge where I wouldn't do a lot of damage, but remembered that I shouldn't.
One painting in particular had become hypnotic. I felt like I could sneak up on it and see that it had changed into something else. I could turn my back on it, walk away and quickly spin around to catch it becoming another painting. By the time we left what had appeared garish, over-busy and too bright had become meditative and alluring. This painting might not change the world but for a time it changed who I was able to be in it.
So thank you Mr Walbidi.