Balgo- contemporary Australian art from the Balgo Hills is a colourful exhibition currently on at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10-C, Chandigarh.
It was fantastic to see how Chandigarhians related to the works given in this international touring exhibition of Australian indigenous artwork, which was inaugurated by the Australian High Commissioner to India, Mr Peter Varghese, on Friday, January 14, 2011.
The Tribune had co-sponsored the event, which drew in many eminent persons, including Justice SS Sodhi and Mrs Bonny Sodhi, Prof B N Goswamy, Prof Shelley Walia, the famous artist Shiv Singh.
Before the exhibition I had a chance to work with Kathryn Deyell, first secretary, public affairs and culture, Australian High Commission and Aparna Gupta of the High Commission. Dedicated, they rolled up their sleeves and were hard at work in the museum, arranging the paintings, setting up the explanatory placards, planning and executing all the work.
When we met on the exhibition day, we were all togged up, and double-takes followed.
As the brochure says: “The acrylic paintings that emerged from Balgo, deep in the Western Desert of Central Australia, first appeared in the 1980s. The paintings shook up what the world understood as ‘traditional’ indigenous art. Bold, bright and colourful, the paintings told stories of the land – what indigenous Australians call ‘county’ – in a way that seemed utterly modern, apparently abstract, and quite exceptional.”
When I asked the eminent art historian, Prof B N Goswamy, what he thought of the paintings, he said was reminded of the art of Peru and that of the Maoris of New Zealand as he looked that the works.
As Jaspreet and I admired the paintings, a thought came of how wonderful it was that cultures that were certainly not geographically contagious somehow had a consciousness that transcended their physical distances and found its expression in a way which brought out their connection.
Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa introduced me to High Commissioner and we chatted about the Sikh diaspora’s old connection with Australia, along with other things. An interesting subject that needs should be explored.
This abstract art touched the hearts of many who had come to view it. Some of the modern art leaves me cold, but here was something that had vibrancy and warmth. Diwan Manna, secretary, Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi who had organised a lecture of the Paris based artist Sakti Burman, put in a brief appearance, and also graciously delayed the lecture a bit so that people could visit the exhibition.
Many friends had come, including Karanbir and Poonam, Aradhika, Gupi Bhattal, and three generations of the Vig family, Mrs Vig, Sidharth, Anant and the young Purvai.
The exhibition is at the Government Museum and Art Gallery from 15-23 January 2011 and I would certainly recommend that you see it.