Submitted Review

‘Salon des Refusés’

  • Charles Darwin University Art Gallery • Darwin

  • 04 August—24 September 2020

  • Erica Izett • Published 24 August 2020

Companion event to NATSIAA, this year’s Salon des Refusés is pared back, a conscious choice by the two curators Matt Ward and Paul Johnstone. On entering the large cube of CDU’s Gallery one is met with a smart pairing of signature Martumili works. There’s a long stretch of blue skewered by a stately and refined Maningrida pole. Pivotal is Gunybi Ganambarr’s insulation cutout, glistening a silver weave against blue foam.

Staged sight-lines reveal themselves throughout. To the left a hot corner of orange and red set against blackened charcoal. Around the corner paler tones of clay and texture range from Ishmael Marika’s pen on paper to Wutjinama Maymuru’s hollow logs and the optical geometrics of Dennis Hatches’ painting. There‘s a playful line of colourful narratives including soft sculpture by Marlene Rubuntja and a wall of classic barks by artists from Arnhem Land and Victoria.

Knock outs include Stanley Douglas, Marcus Camphoo, Barbara Moore and Ganambarr, to name a few – giants, that kick-start speculation and often querulous critique of the Telstra judge’s eye.  What the Salon is widely saluted for is not only increasing exposure and breadth of works to a hungry audience but catalysing dialogue alongside courting controversy.


‘From the refined to the quirky, solemn to the raw’

The distinctive salon hang may be missed this year but nonetheless the range won’t disappoint. From the refined to the quirky, solemn to the raw, the exhibit crosses state lines and medias. Despite eclecticism it forms an elegant hang with room to breathe and neat suites of work mitigate any disjunction.  2020 is a show rich with visual subtleties rather than a riot of colour, allowing you to focus in on individual works and the resonances between them.

Another first is the quality east wall of previous Salon acquisitions from the CDU Collection. These provide a historical snapshot of five years of standouts and sharp competition to this year’s exhibition, indeed, lasting testament to the Salon’s clever and worthy addition to the NATSIAA weekend.

Erica Izett

Curators: Matt Ward and Paul Johnstone