Sally Gabori – Land of All

NGV Sally Gabori Dibirdibi Country 2008The art and life of one of Australia’s pre-eminent contemporary artists will be celebrated in the major retrospective Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of All at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) from 23 September 2016.

More than thirty painted works will showcase the brilliant painting career of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924 – 2015), a senior Kaiadilt woman from Bentinck Island in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria, whose career as a painter emerged and flourished in the last decade of her life.

“This exhibition reveals the extraordinary talent of Sally Gabori, a strikingly original artist whose work conveys a deep connection to her place and people,” said Tony Ellwood, Director NGV.

Dulka Warngiid – Land of All reveals Gabori’s lifelong connection to Bentinck Island, the home she was forced to leave in 1948 following a prolonged drought which was broken by a catastrophic cyclone, inundating the island. Bursting with colour and energy, Gabori’s paintings appear abstract but tell heartfelt stories of her homeland and family.

With no Bentinck Island painting tradition to follow, Gabori’s work demonstrates a radical departure from traditional Aboriginal painting styles and inherited iconography. Already a master weaver, Sally Gabori began her painting career in 2005 after joining a painting workshop at the local art centre on Mornington Island.

Although she had never previously put paintbrush to canvas, she brought to the painting medium an unconstrained contemporary vision, which quickly led to solo and group exhibitions. Her works are now held in major national and international institutions, including Musée du quai Branly, Paris and the Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Key works featured in Dulka Warngiid – Land of All include Gabori’s very first paintings, large scale works created in collaboration with other senior Kaiadilt women, bark paintings made in conversation with Yolngu artist Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, and works on canvas created in her final years.

“It’s important to recognise the joy she brought to her painting… She lived through an incredible amount: the whole period of colonisation in her part of the country. The breaking down of culture as a result of being removed from the island [which was uninhabitable following catastrophic weather events],” said Bruce McLean, Curator of the Exhibition and Curator of Indigenous Australian Art at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.

“These works, done at the end of her life, were a way of reconnecting with a lot of her formative experiences from that twenty-four year period before she was removed from her birthplace. When she painted, she talked to the paintings and she sung to them and she laughed a lot. She would take breaks and laugh; she was reliving moments and memories. That’s the sort of joy she brought to these paintings, and they’re really full of that energy of life that she had.”

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of All
The Ian Potter Centre – NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Exhibition: 23 September 2016 – 29 January 2017
Free Admission

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Image: Mirdidingkingathi Jurwunda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt c. 1924–2015. Dibirdibi Country 2008 synthetic polymer paint on linen 200 x 600 cm Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. Purchased 2008 with funds from Margaret Mittelheuser, AM, and Cathryn Mittelheuser, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation © Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda/Licensed by Viscopy