As the Art Gallery of NSW reopened its doors to visitors last week, we are delighted to announce that several works have been acquired from The National 2021: New Australian Art, a dynamic survey of contemporary Australian art that was on display for three months prior to lockdown.
Co-curated by Matt Cox and Erin Vink, The National 2021 at the Gallery presented 14 artist projects that explored the potential of art to heal and care for fragile natural and social ecosystems.
While the exhibition was on display, visitors could not miss the two monumental paintings hanging in the Entrance Court by Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton. Respected senior women and artists, Muffler and Burton have known each other their whole lives and have worked together as ngangkari (traditional healers). The paintings, both titled Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country), serve to document the unseen connections Anangu have with Country, transcending Western concepts of time, space and being. Built up from black backgrounds, the paintings can be viewed as nocturnal landscapes that refer to the journeys of the ngangkari, who travel in their sleep to meet and treat patients in need of healing.
The support of the Contemporary Collection Benefactors also enabled the acquisition of Abdullah M I Syed’s Currency of Love 2016-21, a series of 22 pigment prints, and Labour of Love 2016, a single-channel video, that formed part of his commission for The National. In the series of pigment prints, Syed has painstakingly mended photographic prints of fallen or decayed leaves taken from his late mother’s money plants, repairing each one with 24-carat gold leaf and a collage of old and new banknotes. For Syed, the act of creating this body of work intimately evidences his mother’s labour, dedication and care for her sons and the sacrifices she made to support Syed as an artist.