australian aborigines art

Dreamings -  australian aborigines art

25. August - 01. Januar 2014 Ernst Barlach Museum Wedel



For many years, the Ernst Barlach Society has been working towards the peaceful, appreciative and enriching coexistence of people and cultures through its exhibitions and events program. To this end, the Ernst Barlach Society plans and organizes exhibitions featuring contemporary art and collaborates with museums, art collectors, galleries and exhibition organizations at home and abroad. Particular attention is given to the artistic positions of developing countries and countries in transition. In this context, important exhibitions have already been held in Iran and Turkey. Artists from Japan, Turkey and China have also been received in the museums of the Ernst Barlach Society for exhibitions and exchange projects. Now, for the first time, an exhibition is dedicated to the art and culture of indigenous people.


The art of the Australian Aborigines is the oldest continuous artistic tradition in the world. It covers a period of 40,000 years and is, until this very day, created and shaped by indigenous artists. From the rock paintings of the Stone Age to today's contemporary art, all work is based on the Aborigines' traditional and ritual understanding of culture and illustrates their approach to the world. To this day, they express their Dreaming through their painting. They mark their territories, record their history and pass on tales about the Dreamtime, the spiritual, natural and moral cosmic order. They tell the story of the insiders and the initiated, who possess the relevant ritual knowledge, and they describe the outer world, the mountains, valleys, caves, waterholes, plants and stones which are accessible to all, including the western observer. Aboriginal art as a whole is driven by this mythological-spiritual orientation of being close to the Dreamtime.


The Dreaming always remains the same. It does not change. The elderly pass it on to the younger as the law and the knowledge. The symbols, marks or patterns on floors, bodies, ceremonial objects or nowadays on canvas, are visible manifestations of the Dreaming, which connect the painter with the elemental force from the past. Every human being has their own Dreaming, passed on to them as a legacy either through their father, grandfather, or mother. The Dreaming also regulates family relations as it determines who can marry whom and arranges the relations between individual clan members.


Since everything in nature, including man, has been created through the Dreaming and, up to this day, follows the structures of the Dreamtime, it is reserved to the initiated to tell others about the Dreamtime, to draw or paint it or represent it in any other way. Howard Morphy of the Center for Cross-Cultural-Research at the Australian National University in Canberra describes the meaning of art in the traditional life of the Aborigines to outsiders by using the example of the Yolngu tribe: “Art was and remains a central component in the traditional life of the Yolngus. It is significant in the political domain, in the relationship between clans as well as the relationship between men and women. Art was and continues to be an important component of the secret knowledge and, on a metaphysical level, the most important medium to revive events of the past and with that, maintain the continuity with the past of our ancestors and the communication with the ancestral spirits. For example, the rock painting of the 'rainbow serpent' is not only a depiction of a rainbow serpent, but also the manifestation of the rainbow serpent - it lives within the picture and will come out of it and devour you, if you act inappropriately towards it. Paintings as embodiments of our ancestral spirits are not merely depicting those spirits to tell their story. As far as the Yolngu are concerned, these paintings are an integral part of the beings themselves; they possess or contain the power of the ancestral spirits.”


The exhibition: “Dreamings – Australian Aboriginal Painting” would not have been possible without the financial support of the city of Wedel, to which we extend our sincere gratitude. Our thanks also go to the international lenders of this exhibition. Last but not least, we are particularly grateful to the art collector couple Dieter and Lilian Schmidt from Hamburg. Not only have they parted with most of their collection for the period of this exhibition, they also provided advice and active support for all aspects of this exhibition. Around 80 paintings, objects, books and texts of indegenous Australiens are presented, focusing the mystery of their culture.

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