Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery was the first venue to exhibit the Flinders University Art Museum Touring Exhibition, Gooch’s Utopia: collected works from the Central Desert, straight from its successful exhibitions at Flinders University and Riddoch Art Gallery.
Curated by Fiona Salmon, Director of Flinders University Art Museum, this exhibition featured works drawn from the art collections of the late Rodney Gooch (1949-2002) and donated by him to Riddoch Art Gallery (Mount Gambier) and Flinders University Art Musuem in Adelaide.
Encompassing batik, paintings, works on paper, sculpture and other three dimensional objects, the project surveyed the work of Anmatyerr and Alyawarr artists resident at the outstations of Utopia, a tract of land 240km north-east of Alice Springs, in the latter decades of the 20th Century. Almost all of the Utopia works were by women and many of the designs were concerned with ‘Awely’ or ‘Women’s Ceremony’. Interestingly the exhibition also examined the contribution one person can make to the public realm as a private collector.
Originally from the foothills of Adelaide, Gooch settled in Alice Springs in his early thirties. In 1987, through the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), he became an art advisor to the remote community of Utopia. Following this appointment, Gooch continued to work closely with the artists of Utopia and was ultimately engaged with the production and sale of art from the community to the wider world for a period of 15 years. Assisting artists in the making and marketing of their work, he was to have a lasting impact on the production of new art forms, art sales and ultimately the business of art dealing in the Central Desert. Gooch’s Utopia also spoke of Gooch himself and his affections for the artists with whom he worked. As a magnanimous and uniquely spirited individual of eclectic taste and extraordinary energy, Gooch established an extended Aboriginal family to whom he was committed until the very end (dying in 2002).
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery also made its own contribution to the exhibition. Included were six of the 19 batiks from the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at The University of Western Australia, shown to complement Gooch’s Utopia. These works were made in the late 1990s by artists living in the Utopia homelands and were exhibited in Peintres aborigenes d’Australie at Parc de la Villette in Paris in 1997.
Batik is a way of decorating cloth by applying hot wax to the surface of the fabric as a resist to the dyes. Artists can build up patterns in a number of colours, waxing over new areas before the next dye bath. The wax is finally removed in boiling water, or is stripped out with solvent.
Developed collaboratively between Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, and Riddoch Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, the Artists represented in the exhibition included: Katy Kemarre, Lena Kemarre, Mary Kemarre, Queenie Kemarre, Paddy Kngale, Audrey Kngwarreye, Christopher Hunter Kngwarreye, Eileen Bird Kngwarreye, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Hazel Kngwarreye, Janice Kngwarreye, Lucky Morton Kngwarreye, Weata Kngwarreye, Annie Mpetyane, Janie Mpetyane, Lyndsay Bird Mpetyane, Mavis Mpetyane, Ronnie Price Mpetyane, Ada Bird Petyarre, Billy Morton Petyarre, Gloria Tamerre Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre and Angelina Pwerle.
This exhibition was supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government Program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of cultural material across Australia.