Kittey Malarvie & Karen Mills: Conversations and Connection — 9 November to 7 December 2013
9 November to 7 December 2013.
Opening talk: by Maurice O’Riordan, director Northern Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA), Darwin on Friday 8 November at 6pm
Cross Conversation: the artists with curator Cathy Cummins, manager at Warringarri Arts, on Saturday 9 November at 3pm
About Conversations and Connection
In these ‘conversational’ paintings Kittey Malarvie from Kununurra and Karen Mills from Darwin weave stylistic, intergenerational and intercultural affinities. Historically a ‘conversation piece’ painting arranges people in agreeable landscapes, preferably with a parasol somewhere in Europe.
These paintings depict a radically different field trip: Malarvie and Mills return to their common country — the desert landscape around Lake Gregory, a significant dessert lake whose cultural, historical, archeological and geological significance is remarkable.
Their works reflect stylistically on their intergenerational and intercultural affinities: simultaneously in languages common to the land and international abstraction.
Karen Mills visited Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, Kununurra WA, in early 2012 as artist in residence to learn from Waringarri’s ochre painters and in turn to share her skills. In conversation with senior artist Kittey Malarvie they realised their family relationship. Kittey and Karen are related through marriage. Paddy King, an Aboriginal leader, was uncle to both Kittey’s husband and Karen’s birth mother.
This led to a journey to Sturt Creek Station, north of the Great Sandy Desert, in mid-2013 to the land where Kittey grew up as her family worked as pastoral workers at Sturt Creek Station and later Ord River Station while Mills grew up as an adopted child in Adelaide. On the banks of the milk white waters of Sturt Creek, Kittey shared with Karen their common family history.
Karen Mills’s paintings are positioned on the edge between opposing and complementary territories of painting, between representation and abstraction, often using the motif of weaving. This is one of a series of exceptional exhibitions on ‘weaving history and connections’ in Darwin, Sydney and Dallas.
Kittey Malarvie’s lattice-like paintings reflect more than just the fractured striations of drying mud or of moving waters. They form a visual biography, recalling bush medicine and playing on dried riverbanks with siblings and cousins. She was recently the subject of a short monograph in Art Monthly Australia.
The idea of reconnecting artists, culture and history is not new, but the model being pioneered at Warringarri Arts is exceptional for this focus on connections as much as for expanding painting practice, experiment and opportunity. For almost three decades Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, initiated by artists such as Queenie McKenzie and Paddy Carlton, has expanded upon our understanding of east Kimberly painting and cultural traditions. This carefully curated search for excellence and innovation continues in these conversations.
A recurring motif at The Cross Art Projects looks at how artists make connections and communicate. Karen Mills co-curated ‘Twined’, an exhibition that was expanded to ‘Twining: Weaving and Abstraction, Dawes / Djunginy / Mills / MacDonald’ for 24hr Art, Darwin in 2011.
Presented by Waringarri Aboriginal Arts in partnership with The Cross Art Projects.
Madeleine Challender for design work; Regents Court Hotel, Sydney
This exhibition has been developed in partnership between The Cross Art Projects and Warringarri Arts. Curator Cathy Cummins.