Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at Rutherglen Estates to launch Roper River Rhapsodies - The Vibrance of Ngukurr on February 24

A BOLD new exhibition at Rutherglen will showcase the painters from South East Arnhem Land at Ngukurr, on the banks of the Roper River. 

Roper River Rhapsodies – The Vibrance of Ngukurr opens on February 24 at Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at Rutherglen Estates.

The contemporary works come from highly collected artists Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Djambu Barra Barra, Willie Gudabi, Amy Jirwulurr Johnson and Gertie Huddleston, Alan Joshua Jnr, Faith Thompson Nelson, Eva Rogers, Joyce Huddlestone, Maureen Thompson, Lurick Fordham and Betty Roberts.

Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery curator Jamie Durrant said the unique people of Ngukurr created modern art through their shared history.

He said in the early 1900s the people fled the pastoralists in the south to the Anglican mission at Ngukurr. 

“There were traditional stories being told through modern techniques and colours,” he said.

“That Anglican mission really grew into an artist colony.

“The vibrancy of the colour is so alive and electric; it’s astonishing.”

Durrant said about 40 paintings as well as sculpture and didgeridoos made up the new exhibition.

“It’s the best collection of Ngukurr art in Australia,” Durrant said.

“When you see great exhibitions like Van Gogh you know it’s something special; this is really an amazing museum collection.”

The exhibition highlights collector/gallery director Hans Sip’s significant collection of Ngukurr works.

The core of the collection was initially put together by Ngukurr author and artist Simon Normand 14 years ago.

Ms Sip enhanced the initial acquisition with another 80 paintings and sculptures over the next 10 years.

The first canvases from Ngukurr date back to March 1987 from painters such Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Djambu Barra Barra, Amy Jirwulurr Johnson and Willie Gudabi.

Sydney artist John Nelson was employed by the Northern Territory Education Department to set up a painting course in the community at their own request.

Nelson introduced large canvases and acrylic paints to give artists the chance to experiment with a new colour palette.

The first paintings were shown in the Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award at the Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory in Darwin.

These works were brilliantly coloured, large and innovative.

They were an instant success and prominent Melbourne galleries soon exhibited Ngukurr artists.

Rutherglen Estates is at 13-35 Drummond Street.