Albert Namatjira is one of Australia’s best-known artists, whose landscape paintings are iconic images synonymous with the Australian outback. However, one hundred years after his birth on 28 July 1902, Namatjira has become both a national symbol and a scapegoat for the social policies and aesthetic prejudices of the time, his art virtually ignored by the mainstream Australian art world.
This exhibition seeks to redress this neglect. Works of art from all phases of his career have been assembled to form a thematic display. They are shown together with contextual works from his early years in Hermannsburg, west of Alice Springs, where he learned to paint from artist, Rex Battarbee.
Namatjira’s paintings express his relationship with the Arrernte country, particularly the Western Aranda (Arrernte) lands, for which he was a traditional custodian. Through his intense scrutiny of specific places and his sensitive response to their individual qualities, Namatjira enables us to see the Centre as a multi-faceted region of Australia. A region of extremes, central Australia is far from a ‘dead heart’.
Water is a powerful presence; it is the central dynamic for change. Its absence or presence is the source of much of the diversity of visual forms and motifs that engaged Namatjira throughout his painting career. The ‘red heart’ is a misnomer for a land in which light and distance are key factors that shape perception, fragment forms and transform colour. Namatjira developed a rich repertoire of compositional devices to express his experience of being in this world. In so doing, he expands our vision. He opens our eyes and our senses to new ways of seeing the Centre.