MY COLLECTION: Fresh Eyes curator Jeremy Passmore, a student from the UWA School of Design, depicted alongside his selections from the Berndt Museum of Anthropology. Photograph by Ilkka K Photography.
Objects (left to right): Karajarri Shield, Western Desert, early 20th century. Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1998/0009]; Drunmung Shield, New South Wales, early 20th century. Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1978/0010]; Kappa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa (1926-1989), Shield, 1978, Papunya, Northern Territory. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Joan Kean, Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1998/0061].
The ongoing MY COLLECTION series highlights select works from the University of Western Australia’s extensive art collections and pairs them with text created in response by both staff and invited guests.
For our 2020 series, MY COLLECTION: Fresh Eyes, we have invited artists, UWA students and scholars to explore and respond to work of their choosing from the collection.
Karajarri Shield, Western Desert, early 20th century
Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1998/0009]
Drunmung Shield, New South Wales, early 20th Century
Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1978/0010]
Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa (1926–1989), Papunya, Northern Territory
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Joan Kean, Berndt Museum of Anthropology Collection [1998/0061]
The decision to include these three shields as part of the My Collection series stems from not just their cultural importance and the craftsmanship that went into their creation, but the multiple layers of use and interpretation that can be gained from their study. We see when an individual went into battle he was not alone, he had his community with him in spirit, quite literally when looking at the Karajarri shield the face is practical and deflects blows, but by placing the carvings on the rear facing the shields' holder it acts as focal point for what is being fought for.
There is a beauty in understanding, when we look past first notions and dig deep into the rich cultural history of Australia, some of which is archived here at the Berndt Museum of Anthropology. We gain a greater appreciation of community, history, tradition and knowledge when objects become things, a transformation which occurs through education and reflection. Like the boomerangs currently on display these shields are not static items locked in the past but embodiments of their maker and community and a living part of their story.
UWA History of Art and Fine Art (double major), School of Design
Dora Chapman, The kiln, 1973 (pictured right)
Screenprint on paper, sheet: 76.4 x 55.8 cm | image: 50.8 x 40.4 cm
Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, The University of Western Australia
All important things are said through images. Techniques are ways of involving and using them. Silk screen can simplify to give clear and unencumbered images where little changes can alter the whole spirit and meaning of the thing. But when it is finished it seems to hover, to change, but always comes back to the point where it started.(1)
Dora Chapman was quoted reflecting upon our relationship with images as a society in conversation with interviewer Betty Jew when she visited the retired artist and educator in 1969. Born in 1911, Chapman studied art at the Royal South Australian School of Arts and Crafts. After working in the army as a teaching artist she established the Studio of Realist Art with her husband, James Cant in 1945. As an artist in the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties, Chapman’s work ranged in medium and subject matter including oil, pastel and charcoal works of portraits, landscapes and still-life.
In her later career Chapman experimented with silk screen printing and in 1974 she produced a series of faces segmented by multiple geometric shaped stencils printed in colour inks. The kiln abstracts the equipment used in the process of ceramic production, another of Chapman’s many skills, with pointed oval shaped stencils and colour ranging from an opaque gumleaf green to a deep maroon at its centre. The quote above nicely rounds out how Chapman’s The kiln, whose later editions were titled I See(2), creates an image that draws the eye both inwards and outwards simultaneously, indeed “it seems to hover” on the printed surface revealing the paper’s natural condition in between slight tonal shifts of colour.
Looking back out at us, this portrait of an object used in the creative process is an important serigraph that reveals a deep concern in Chapman’s practice that abstracts the act of viewing. Its place in the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art ensures that the pointed lucidity of Chapman’s artistic sensibility will be preserved for the study of South Australian and Australian art. As a student of art history with a specific interest in contemporary art from the 1960s and 70s, Chapman’s The kiln caught my eye as something both of its age and timeless. Looking at abstract images conjures something deeply emotional and inherently human and The kiln really does seem to bring us closer to, “the point where it started.”
UWA History of Art (Honours) student, School of Design
(1) Dora Chapman and Betty Jew, “Meet the Artist…Dora Chapman,” Kalori: Royal South Australian Society of Arts Journal, September 1969, page 9.
(2) Jean Campbell, James Cant and Dora Chapman, The Beagle Press: Sydney, 1995, page 101.