Episode 5: More of the Matrix

When Judi Muller retired with a good pension, she decided to make ‘a personal act of reconciliation’ and sell Indigenous art on a small scale – the stuff that bypasses the big bucks. Mark Chapman has tailored his art supplies business to suit the desert conditions in which Indigenous artists work: his linen canvases are hand-primed with acrylic paint, which allows a better bond and creates a painting that is durable and transportable. Ruark Lewis is a multi-media artist who has been involved in an artistic ‘conversation’ with artists from other cultures including Barayuwa Munungurr, a Yolngu artist who paints his mother’s whale story. Their work shows a remarkable synergy and has been exhibited as far afield as Monaco.

Art by Ruark Lewis (L) and Barayuwa Munungurr (R), at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin, 2015.

Listen to Episode 5


General Resources

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters: A major exhibition at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, curated by Heart of Artness co-host, Margo Neale.

Rattling Spears: A History of Indigenous Australian Art, a recent book by Ian McLean.

Short article by Siobhan McHugh and Ian McLean in The Conversation: ‘Aboriginal Art – is it a white thing?’

Article that analyses the process of oral history interviewing and its use for podcast/audio storytelling purposes: “The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio”, Siobhán McHugh, Oral History Review, Oxford University Press, Volume 39, Number 2, Summer/Fall 2012 pp. 187-206. This article was among OHR’s most cited and is reproduced in its 50th anniversary issue in 2016. It is also included in The Oral History Reader, 3rd ed, ed Perks & Thomson, Routledge 2016.
Note: if the hyperlinks to illustrative audio clips in the OHR article are broken, please listen to the audio clips here – they are a vital part of it!

Episode 5: More of the Matrix

Rambangi / Together as Equals’ 
xhibition (2015) at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin.
Artists: Barayuwa Munungurr, Ruark Lewis, Bengitj Ngurruwuthun, Jeffrey Ngurruwuthun

Gadawaulkwulk Means Shelter 
Exhibition (2012) Barayuwa Mununggurr and Ruark Lewis

Eaux Vivantes/Living Waters
Book of crosscultural artworks including works by Barayuwa Mununggurr and Ruark Lewis

Midwarr/Harvest Exhibition
National Museum of Australia with Yolŋu elder Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda and landscape painter John Wolseley.

ABC Radio National ‘Awaye’ program examining fake Indigenous artworks

Indigenous Art Code: monitors fair trade of Indigenous art.

Barayuwa Munungurr, artist

Ruark Lewis, artist

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, artist from Utopia

Episode 4: Meet the Matrix

Kartiya (white people) are like Toyotas  is the article by Kim Mahoud that Margo mentioned: a blistering insight into the dysfunctional dynamics of some whitefellas in remote Aboriginal communities.

The artistic revival at Papunya Tjupi Arts is another article by Kim Mahoud in The Monthly, October 2018 traces new developments in the community that started the Western Desert art movement in the early 1970s, including a move away from a restricted colour palette.

RAFT Artspace
Founded in Darwin in 2001 by Dallas Gold, RAFT presented more than 150 exhibitions there, before relocating in 2010 to Alice Springs.


Contemporary Aboriginal art is a powerful part of Aboriginal life and culture. But behind the artists lies a network of Western managers, dealers, critics, curators and collaborators. Heart of Artness features the voices of Aboriginal artists from remote and urbanAustralia and investigates their significant relationships with white folk.

Listen to the trailer for the podcast series

Episode 4: Meet the Matrix

Dallas Gold, founder of RAFT Artspace, with a painting by Yolgnu artist Nongirrnga Marawili.

Among the myriad folk who orbit remote Aboriginal art centres:

Jeremy Cloake is a New Zealander of Maori/Irish heritage. He’s also an expert on playing the yidaki, the Yolngu name for didgeridoo. He spends months every year at Yirrkala, working in the art centre in diverse roles.

Dallas Gold was a chef before he studied art. He’s met collectors who are ‘hooked on Aboriginal art’. As a dealer, he shares their passion, ‘pushing art’ to the outside world. His gallery, RAFT, showcases difference. In an update, Dallas tells us that the exhibition with Peter Adsett he refers to was not an actual RAFT event, but a precursor. The first RAFT exhibition (2001) was Four Men, Four Paintings, with Rusty Peters, Freddie Timms, Paddy Bedford & Ramey Ramsey. Details here.

Joseph Brady is a multi-media artist from Melbourne. Now he and his family live in the remote Aboriginal community at Yirrkala, where he is the program director at the Mulka Project, the museum and digital production part of the art centre. Joseph makes audio and visual recordings of Yolngu ceremonies, or Bungul, such as initiations and funerals. The recordings are archived to preserve culture, but they are also popular viewing with family members: “The drama and highlights of ceremony are well worth re-visiting… the same way you  might re-watch a wedding video.”

Listen to Episode 4


Episode 3: Art as Title Deeds

Wukun Wanambi and Will Stubbs

The ‘mintji’ or traditional cross-hatching the Yolngu paint with ochres on barks, hollow logs and other artefacts is mesmerisingly beautiful. It also radiates power. It encodes sacred knowledge about the land and sea and documents the Yolngu’s connection to country over 60,000 years. Within three decades of the arrival of white colonists in 1935, the Yolngu had used their art for political gains. They revisited the tactic in the courts, winning crucial land and maritime rights.

In this episode, anthropologist Howard Morphy, who has lived among the Yolngu for over 40 years, and Will Stubbs, veteran manager of the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, trace the ways art, law and politics are inextricably linked.


Listen to Episode 3