Submitted Review

‘Desert Mob’ in Alice Springs

  • Araluen Arts Centre • Alice Springs

  • 10 September—24 October 2020

  • Erica Izett • Published 20 September 2020

Desert Mob in COVID times sees a reduced hang, timed viewing & a stronger on-line presence. This is not all bad – muted hubbub aside, you still feel the energy of the work minus the crowd. Other elements take stage, a near standoff of makers & painters, plucky experimentation, decisive curatorial license & stylish context from the on-line symposium. Less-is-more rings true in 2020.

Frontispiece entrance this year is a salon hang of Araluen’s Desert Mob acquisitions, appetiser for both next year’s 30th anniversary and prototype for the 2D & 3D work within.

A first for 2020 is the use of the Namatjira Gallery. Both larger galleries house strong suites.

While some entries are light on, there is no denying the gravitas of the ceramics in the Namatjira this year. Ernabella’s stoneware sits comfortably on a world stage & the stand-out Hermannsburg collection is masterful in its depiction of rich heritage in monochromatic sobriety. Stephen Williamson, Araluen’s curator, makes good use of the installation to contrast a swirling Fregon backdrop on one side & the heavy metal roar from Tennant Creek on the other.

‘feral soft-sculptures and funky painted cars’

Amongst some patchy painting in the Sitzler corridor are 3D trumps of Yarrenyty Arltere’s feral soft-sculptures, funky painted cars from Irrunytju and William Keighran’s ambitious pouncing eagle.

In the adjacent gallery punu from Maraku intersect a variable spread of Desert paintings. Maraku predates most art-centres on the lands & the dramatic ‘flying karli’ installation is eye-catching however full credit to young artists Dallas Smythe and Cynthia Burke making strides. Smythe’s burnt etching on ply hovers evocatively between painting and object. Many artists who carve also paint or weave & utilise this experience to push their mediums.  Using strands to build form, lluwanti Ken’s superb and dexterous line is a high note in the quality Tjala wall & echoes her weaving.

Evolution may also be required for those yearning for the kaleidoscopic emersion of yesteryear as lessons from 2020 limitations will surely be a sharpening stone for Desert Mob ahead.