Words by Letti K-Ewing
Photography by Adam Jenkins – Marketing & Communications Culture and Arts Team at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
Yewth would like to advise that this article contains names and images of Indigenous people who are deceased, and that the images of deceased Indigenous people are contained within the exhibit of ‘The Spaces Between’
Celebrated Australian artist and Archibald Prize finalist of 2014, Jandamarra Cadd, unveiled his latest exhibition entitled ‘The Spaces Between’ last Friday at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.
Cadd’s large-scale portrait dot paintings detail aspects of the deep and complex cultural narrative of Indigenous Australians and the inherent connection of the land to its First Nation’s peoples.
The eight visually impressive pieces of artwork comprising the exhibition were introduced by a welcome to country performed by Ngarrindjeri elder Major Moogy “Uncle Moogy” Sumner, as well as speeches by Tandanya Institute’s Culture and Arts Manager, Ruth Miller, and Cadd himself.
Cadd explained the Australian First Nation’s people’s connection to country as intrinsic and inseparable as community is to identity, or, as he metaphorically explained it, ‘a lot like a water for a fish.’ These are two beings that are so naturally intertwined that, as Cadd said, ‘it is not something intellectually understood.’
Each painting has a story to tell, presented by the subjects’ faces encapsulated by Cadd’s precise realism formed by the process of a careful arrangement of both vibrant and earth-toned colours. This method creates stark tonal work of emulating vivid topographical imagery of both well-known contrasting extremes of dry and lush Australian landscapes in both visual and tangible aspects – the dried paint noticeably raised upon close inspection.
And as you get closer, the face disappears into winding streams of dots and colour, indistinguishable from facial contours, evoking the sense of looking upon a detailed map. Truly, Cadd’s intention of painting a narrative of Aboriginal people as indivisible custodians of the land can be wholly understood.
‘…These portraits are created completely of traditional, landscape-perspective dots to show that for Aboriginal people their connection to country is the foundation of who they are,’ said Cadd.
Additionally, Cadd formally invited exhibition goers to touch his paintings to fully immerse themselves in a visual and tactile experience. Myself and other gallery goers did so with both wonder and caution.
This is not pointillism or any other term appropriated and coined by European art movements. Jandamarra Cadd’s work is harkened of an era far before artistic movements. It is a lineage, an intergenerational recitation of a race’s cultural experience spanning over 60,000 years.
'The Spaces Between' will be on show at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute from 15 December 2017 until February 3 2018
Follow the work of Jandamarra Cadd on Facebook here