EMBARGOED: Monday 29 April 2013, 10am.

Leading Australian artist unveils large scale rooftop installation for major museum in Paris
The critically acclaimed musée du quai Branly in Paris will soon be home to a dynamic new installation by leading Aboriginal Australian artist Lena Nyadbi. At a special ceremony in Canberra today, Australia will celebrate a major new commission specifically designed for the Paris museum’s rooftop. At almost 700 square metres, the large scale art installation has been designed to be viewed from the Eiffel Tower and by Google Earth users, making it one of the largest artworks made by an Australian artist and an important new addition to the world renowned museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
One of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Lena Nyadbi is a Gija woman of Nyawurru skin. Born around 1936 in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Nyadbi is best known for her rich, spare aesthetic. After a decade under apprenticeship to leading Kimberley master artists, Nyadbi began painting in 1998. Her paint is hand-made using natural ochre and charcoal from Gija country. This literal inseparability from country is implicit in the power of her artwork. In a unique partnership between the Australia Council, the musée du quai Branly, and the Harold Mitchell Foundation, the artist was last year commissioned to create a new site-specific installation for the museum’s rooftop terrace. To be unveiled in Paris on 6 June 2013, the outdoor work is titled Dayiwul Lirlmim (Barramundi Scales). Filling the 700 square metres rooftop, the giant rendering is an adaptation of a new black and white painting by the artist. The original artwork will also go on display at the Paris Museum. Both works have been inspired by Nyadbi’s mother’s land in Dayiwul Country in Western Australia. Located on the left Bank in the heart of Paris, the musée du quai Branly is one of France’s national museums and is a world leading centre for global cultures and arts. The musée collection comprises more than 300,000 works of art, of which 33 000 are from Oceania. Today the musée collection features 1423 Aboriginal works of art including weapons, boomerangs, tools and sculptures. The installation will be viewed by the seven million people who visit the Eiffel Tower every year and by Google Earth users. “This powerful new work by Lena Nyadbi is an historic opportunity to highlight and promote Indigenous Australian art and cultures to a global audience in Paris,” said Australia Council Chair Mr Rupert Myer AM. “It is also an opportunity to continue to develop the relationship between the Australia Council, Australian galleries and museums and the musée du quai Branly. Importantly, this commission builds on the success of a project in 2006 with the musée which featured work by eight artists, including Lena Nyadbi on the ceilings and facade of the museum which attracted the attention of visitors from around the world.” Harold Mitchell AC, Chairman of the Harold Mitchell Foundation said, “Through the Harold Mitchell Foundation we seek to have a transformational impact with the projects we fund. Presented in the heart of European civilisation this project both raises the profile of Indigenous art and expands the ways we think about the possibilities of Aboriginal art in a global context” Continued over…

“We are very excited to present work of this magnitude by an important contemporary Australian Aboriginal artist,” said Stéphane Martin, President of the musée du quai Branly who approached Australia Council in 2011 with the proposal for a large scale work at the museum. Since 2011, numerous discussions and visits with the artist at her home in Western Australia have resulted in the extraordinary artwork Dayiwul Lirlmim. “The scale and prominence of this project is a reflection of the growing interest in contemporary Aboriginal Australian art among museum visitors across Europe and internationally,” said Mr Martin. “Lena Nyadbi’s remarkable paintings at once embody a particular place and culture and speak many languages” said Ms Lee-Ann Buckskin Chair of the Australia Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board. “Translated from a canvas an architectural scaled sculptural form, Nyadbi’s commission highlights the dynamism of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts among the Indigenous cultures of the world”. The Paris installation will coincide with a major new exhibition of Kimberley artists from the Warmun Art Centre at the Australian Embassy in Paris, which will open on 6 June 2013. This project is being presented by the Australia Council for the Arts, musée du quai Branly, Harold Mitchell Foundation, the Australian Embassy in Paris and the National Gallery of Australia.

A reception is being held to launch the project in Australia on Monday 29 April, 12.30pm – 2.30pm at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Special guests at the event include the Minister for the Arts The Hon Tony Burke MP, artist Lena Nyadbi, Australia Council Chair, Mr. Rupert Myer, Chairman and Founder of the Harold Mitchell Foundation, Mr Harold Mitchell, Ambassador of France to Australia H.E. Mr. Stéphane Romatet and President of the musée du quai Branly Mr. Stéphane Martin. All media are welcome to attend.

Media contacts: Australia Gabrielle Wilson 0433 972 915 g.wilson@australiacouncil.gov.au Media contacts: France Musée du quai Branly Nora Charifi 33 (0)1 56 61 52 87 nora.charifi@quaibranly.fr

Brendan Wall 0427 689 910 b.wall@australiacouncil.gov.au

Artist biography: Lena Nyadbi
Lena Nyadbi was born around 1936 in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, at a lagoon named Warnmarnjulugun near old Greenvale Station. A Gija woman of Nyawurru skin, Lena was ‘grown up’ by her elder sister Goody Barrett on Lissadell Station, after her mother and father passed away while she was a still young girl. For Gija people the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) is contemporary across all time. Nyadbi paints two principal Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) stories; Jimbirlam Ngarranggarni (Spearhead Dreaming), on her father’s country to the north and east of Warmun Community on the Doon Doon side of the Great Northern Highway; and Dayiwul Lirlmim Ngarranggarni (Barramundi Scales Dreaming) in Dayiwul Country where the Argyle Diamond Mine now stands on her mother’s father’s country Thilthuwam (now known as Lissadell Station). The biggest diamond mine in the world, Argyle Diamonds has significantly impacted on this key Ngarranggarni site, reducing what was originally a beautiful narrow gap between two ranges of hills, to an open cut mine site. In the Ngarranggarni, three women were fishing for Dayiwul the Barramundi with a trap made of spinifex grass (nyiyirriny). Those women chased that Barramundi fish up the river to shallow water, but he was smarter than they were and he escaped by jumping over their spinifex grass trap and through the rocks. When he landed his scales (lirlmim) were scattered all over and in the ground. It is in this same place that the diamond mine sits today. The barramundi scales literally are the diamonds. As Nyadbi often points out, the scales of the barramundi look just like a diamond. The significance of Nyadbi’s work in this context should not be underestimated, nor should the extraordinary life journey that informs Nyadbi’s art practice today. Like many Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region during the first part of the twentieth century, Lena was put to work as an indentured labourer on the cattle stations from an early age. Here she learnt how to milk cows, muster cattle and to ride unbroken horses. She vividly remembers the station mistress dragging her to the kitchen by the ear and being taught to carry cups full of tea without spilling a drop. When equal wages for Indigenous people were introduced in Australia in 1968/69, Nyadbi became a refugee in her own country, along with many other Gija people. Forced off the stations into the fledgling community of Warmun (Turkey Creek), Nyadbi then lived in the company of key artists such as Hector Jandany, Queenie McKenzie, Rover Thomas, Jack Britten, Paddy Jaminji and George Mung Mung, who established the Warmun Art Movement from the 1970’s. After spending many years watching and learning from renowned Warmun artists who have now passed away, Nyadbi began painting full-time in 1998, when Warmun Art Centre was established. It was Nyadbi’s mentor, the great old man artist Paddy Jaminji who in particular, taught her the techniques of grinding ochre and charcoal, and of rubbing the charcoal into the canvas with her hands. All of Nyadbi’s paint is hand-made using natural ochre and charcoal from Gija country. This literal inseparability from country is implicit in the power of hers and all Warmun artists work. Lena Nyadbi was selected for the Adelaide Biennial of Contemporary Art ‘Beyond the Pale’ (2000), curated by Brenda Croft; she is one of eight Indigenous artists featured in the musee du quai Branly project which opened in Paris in 2006, with her depiction of Jimbirlam & Kumerra, architecturally rendered onto the surface of the Musee’s outer wall; and was recently commissioned by the musee du quai Branly to create a major new solo work to be installed on a 700 sqm section of its rooftop in 2013. The work is scaled specifically to be viewed from the Eiffel Tower. Nyadbi is included in major Australian and international collections, has had numerous solo exhibitions with Niagara Galleries in Melbourne and is represented by Warmun Art Centre, Western Australia. © Lena Nyadbi & Warmun Art Centre, Western Australia, 2013.

The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’ s arts funding and advisory body

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