Week 11

  • Butcher Cherel

  • Region: The Kimberleys
  • State: Western Australia
  • Born: 1920c
  • Died: 2009
  • Art Centre: Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency

Subject & Themes

Afternoon rain, coolamon, warda, boab nuts, Paddock pocket, Dilly bag, bush plums, waterlilies

I found alot of examples of work by Butcher but all of his work was in black and white only. this makes his work very striking

Dennis Nona

Dennis Nona is widely acknowledged as one the most important Torres Strait Islander artists. Born on Badu Island in 1973 he was taught as a young boy the traditional craft of woodcarving. This skill has been developed and the artist now does work with linocuts, etchings and sculptures he has been working as an artist since 1989 The artist has a Diploma of Art from Cairns TAFE, a Diploma of Visual Arts in Printmaking from the Institution of Arts, Australian National University, Canberra and is currently completing a Master of Arts degree in Visual Arts at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane. Nona pioneered the development of the linocut prints unique to the Torres Strait Islands. He has documented, through a variety of forms, the ancient myths and legends of his island and the wider Torres Strait all of these stories had previously been passed on through storytelling as well as music and dance.

He is well known for telling multiple stories in his works. In this way he relates an entire narrative in one single work with all the characters and events in one image. Within Nona's work there is a celebration of island myths and legends, of how humans, animals, plants and landscape took their meaning from epic or magical events in the past. It was a culture where fighting was glorified and warriors were held in high esteem. Legendary heroes wore distinctive local headdress and masks. They played drums and used objects associated with their ritual ceremonies and dances. It was a culture of head hunters, cannibalism and raiding parties that attacked homes built in tree tops. It was a society where men, women, sorcerers and witches came to their final grief by being transformed into sea creatures or cast into the sea to become the islands and rocky outcrops evident throughout the Western Torres Strait Islands today. Curator of Australian Prints at the National Gallery of Australia, Roger Butler, says that Nona's work represents a trend by artists to explore the physicality of the print making process instead of just the instant art making of digital processes: He comments: "He (Nona) sits there with a lot of lino and with a very sharp little chisel and cuts out those incredibly detailed little lines and gouge marks... That's really taking it back to the processes of (German Renaissance artist) Albrecht Durer, a simple technique that makes VERY complex images."

Subject & Themes

Melanesian influence. Denis's linocuts, etchings and sculptures derive from his wood-carving experiences on Badu Island. He is inspired by coastal life, family, traditional medicines and the myths and legends of the Torres Strait.

Story: The sculpture depicts two species of Stingray, Guuwerr (the bronze stingray) and Tupmul (the aluminium stingray). While out fishing or diving the local people would see the stingrays leaping out of the water. This action of the stingray is an indicator of an imminent change in weather conditions. When observed during times of rough weather (Muturuka) it indicates a change to calm conditions. This would be a very important for a community that uses the water every day

The action of the stingrays represents a spiritual connection between these sea creatures and man. In the moment the stingrays are airborne and before the flop back to the surface of the water, islanders of a particular totem will instinctly utter the word, Gubaka. Traditionally, Gubaka was the preserve of the person of the Tupmul Augad (totem) who was one of several men representing other island totems who sat in the Kwod (the Western equivalent of a parliament). Tupmul is the artist's totem and is one of the main totems on his island of Badu. The two different metals used in the sculpture reflect the different colours of the two stingray species. Tupmul is pale white in colour while Guuwerr is a darkish brown. In creating the sculpture the artist has reflected on the synchronicity or affinity that exists between the sea creature and the man that possesses its totem.

I saw this sculpture when it was displayed at Tandanya it was a very striking piece and appealed to allot of the class in our subsequent discussion, it was interesting to get the story behind the totem and understand why the stingray is so important. It was also interesting to note that the different colours were from different species.

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