Director's Blog with Beverly Knight

New Year welcomes new works from two exponents of aboriginal art

Alcaston Gallery will honour the beginning of the 2016 exhibition calendar with a showcase of dynamic new paintings from two celebrated aboriginal art practitioners.

Freddy Ken and Ray Ken hail from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, South Australia, and both have a lasting connection with Tjala Arts, the Aboriginal owned and managed centre that sells artwork on behalf of its members from the Amata Community, fostering financial security for the inhabitants of the surrounding homelands. Tjala Arts has a mission to support a diverse range of artistic styles and practices, from traditional forms such as tjanpi (sculptural weaving) to contemporary painting, photography and film-making.

True to this mission, both Freddy and Ray Ken have mined their unique vision over the years to explore ‘Tjukurpa’ (stories, dreaming) of their local region, primarily through distinctive painted works.

Natalie O’Connor, Manager, Tjala Arts, indicates both artists have brought their diverse and unique visions to some of the most important traditions of aboriginal art practice, in particular the depiction of the story of Kulata Tjuta, or spear making.

“Ray Ken’s meticulous and controlled lines are a vast contrast to the vibrant and dynamic gestures of colour that Freddy Ken carves into his canvases. However, both artists express a sophisticated knowledge of country and Anangu culture through their paintings. The story of Kulata Tjuta celebrates the importance of the traditional craft of carving spears and the deep connection to those, past and present, who have fought to protect country. Senior men have always taught young men how to make Kulata. This tradition is alive and strong in these colour soaked contemporary paintings.”


Freddy Ken

Freddy Ken

Born in the early 1950s, Freddy Ken draws on traditional tjukurpa to paint the stories of his country and culture. He was inspired to join the Tjala Art Centre by his uncle Billy Wara, who was regarded as a highly skilled Punu Ngintaka artefact-maker and traditional aboriginal art practitioner at Mutujulu community, attached to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Now widely regarded as an emerging artist to watch, in recent years Freddy Ken has become well-known for his abstracted interpretations of the Kulata (spear) and other hunting tools used by Anangu men of the Pitjantjatjara people of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands.


Ray Ken

Ray Ken

Born around 1940, Ray Ken began painting relatively late in life in 2003, focusing much of his attention on the mysterious rock hole sites that punctuate the landscape of his homeland, knowledge of which is revered by all Anangu people. While honouring the traditions of aboriginal art, his vibrant colours and dynamic linear compositions have also resulted in a compelling aesthetic that has also drawn acclaim in the contemporary arts sphere. His work is also characterised by typical scenes of his country, in particular the Tali (Sand Dune). Ray Ken was a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award in both 2009 and 2011 and in 2013 was a finalist in the prestigious Western Australian Indigenous Art Award. His work has been collected by major institutions and private collections.

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