Watercolour Country: 100 Works From Hermannsburg at the NGV
Celebrating the indelible legacy and lasting importance of the Hermannsburg school of watercolourists, Watercolour Country: 100 works from Hermannsburg brings together the NGV’s significant holdings from this pivotal school of Australian art, including 77 never-before displayed works generously gifted to the NGV.
The exhibition features both historical and contemporary works by more than forty Arrernte, Western Arrernte and Kemarre/Loritja artists working at Hermannsburg from the 1930s to the present day, including Albert Namatjira, his sons Enos, Ewald, Gabriel and Oscar Namatjira, as well as significant figures from key artistic families, such as the Inkamala, Pareroultja, and Raberaba families.
Displaying familial generations together, the exhibition traces the artistic lineage of the families of artists living in and around Hermannsburg, mapping their relationships and revealing their mutual influence and affinities of colour, vibrancy and connection to Country.
Major exhibition highlights include new acquisitions by Albert Namatjira (1902-1959), pioneer of the Hermannsburg school and one of Australia’s most well-known artists, whose landscapes are synonymous with the Central Australian outback. Iconic works by Namatjira are on display, including Central Australia, MacDonnell Ranges 1958; Haast Bluff, Central Australia 1940s; and Finke River Gorge c. 1956.
While being celebrated as symbols of successful assimilation by the colonisers of Hermannsburg, Namatjira’s watercolours are imbued with the deep personal and spiritual connection Namatjira had with Country, demonstrating the unique and sometimes conflicting relationship the artist had with this predominantly Western form of artmaking.
The exhibition also includes the work of contemporary artists working in the Hermannsburg tradition, including Mona Lisa Clements and Clara Inkamala. Working collaboratively, eleven contemporary artists from Iltja Ntarra Arts Centre – including Clements, Vanessa Inkamala, Kathy Inkamala, Betty Namatjira and Selma Coulthard – have produced the three-metre suspended watercolour Woven in time 2022, displayed for the first time within the exhibition. The painted silks incorporate text and image in the depiction of Country and Community, and tell stories from the artists’ childhoods spent in Mparntwe and Ntaria.
Watercolour Country also celebrates the work of many artists who were active for more than half a century, such as Gerhard Inkamala and Cordula Ebatarinja. Ebatarinja is one of the only women from the same generation as Albert Namatjira to have a career as a painter and is shown in the exhibition alongside work by her husband and sons. A master of depth and perspective, Ebatarinja’s stylised depictions of the landscape often incorporate dry and ochred rock formations alongside the lush green hues of Australia’s outback vegetation.
Representing the ethereal beauty of Arrernte Country and the cultural stories that are embedded within the landscape, the works on display traverse a range of enduring subjects, including distant eucalypt trees, blue mountains, rock formations, and slender ghost gums, as well as contemporary motifs and symbols that highlight the way depictions of Country have evolved since the 1930s.
Watercolour Country: 100 works from Hermannsburg is on display from 27 October 2023 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Fed Square, Melbourne. Entry is FREE. Further information is available via the NGV website: NGV.MELBOURNE