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Yirrkala: Art from Australia’s Top End

May 10 2024–ongoing

Seattle Art Museum

Step into a whirlpool off the north coast of Australia. With an artist from Yirrkala as your guide, you’ll be urged to watch the water’s swirling patterns and witness the ancestral powers that lie beneath its surface. Meditations on environmental cycles and our connections to them prevail in art from Yirrkala. Living amid stingybark (eucalyptus) forests, artists use bark as canvases and local earth pigments as paint to bring sacred designs carrying ancient knowledge into view. Diamond shapes may convey fire, honey, or the turbulent water surrounding the plunge of a crocodile. In a recent innovation, artists transform discarded metal into canvases filled with glimmering fields of pattern. Moving images created by Yirrkala’s talented media artists are also on view.

Image: Mundukul at Baraltja (detail), 2008, Gunybi Ganambarr, Australian Aboriginal, Ngaymil clan, Yangunbi, Northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, b. 1973, natural pigments on eucalyptus bark, 68 1/8 x 29 15/16 in., Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan.

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