…as the Serpent Struggles

Ann Newmarch (b. 1945) O.A.M is a senior South Australian artist who was at the vanguard of feminist art in Australia in the early 1970s, making her mark as a printmaker, photographer, and painter in particular, and through community-engaged, activist projects such as public murals and, in part, her latest exhibition, … as the Serpent Struggles. Ann produced this significant body of paintings and prints during the 1980s, inspired by her experience of the Central and Western Desert areas of the NT and SA and by the challenge of a postcolonial view.

Ann’s engagement with Aboriginal art in these works is prescient of broader debates around cultural authenticity and representation, as surveyed by the later seminal exhibition From Appropriation to Appreciation (Flinders University Art Museum, 1988) which included her work.

The exhibition’s central motif of the car or car-wreck in the desert predates the cliché, just as Ann’s approach (to) and treatment of a desert Aboriginal aesthetic (in ‘dot’ painting) came at a time when the so-called desert acrylic-on-canvas movement was first beginning to take hold. Ann’s work responds to the immediacy of this movement and to the presence and palette of Aboriginal desert iconography. Her dotting/pixilation is also about the screen – both as and in reference to screenprinting and screen-mediated culture.

‘An artist has a responsibility as an image-maker to concerns wider than herself or her art’, says Ann, quoted in a recent article in The Australian about her politicised screenprints (Bronwyn Watson, ‘Ann Newmarch print at Flinders Uni tackles radiation and birth defects’, 16 July 2016). ‘It’s not much use being concerned only about women’s art when uranium is being mined and Aborigines are losing their land, and when Uncle Sam stings your armpit and your kids want to eat at Hungry Jack’s, and when TV takes the place of learning and doing.’

Since 1969, Ann Newmarch has presented over 30 solo exhibitions and participated in over 100 significant group exhibitions, including the well-known WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution international exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007) in which she was the only Australian artist represented. … as the Serpent Struggles is timed to coincide with the WOW (Women of the World) Festival, GYRACC, Katherine, 16-18 September, at which a number of prints by Ann will also be on display.

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