After a summer of fire, including here in the ACT, Indigenous artist Arone Meeks believes charcoal is the perfect medium to work with in a free workshop at the National Gallery of Australia as part of the second instalment of its exciting Art Weekend program.
Arone, a Kukumidjii man from Far North Queensland, is primarily a painter but believes an artist needs to be versatile, working in printmaking, creating award-winning children’s books and even working with lasers, as well as being a trained teacher.
Friday night’s workshops will draw on his iconic Spirit Ark printmaking work that explains his cultural identity and what has contributed to who he is as a human being.
”I’m hoping that people who attend the workshops bring their cultural histories to the table so they will be drawing on their own cultural history whether they’re Scottish, Danish, Aussie or whatever. It’s about those key things which are important, that guided you and who you are as a person. Things that are important to you,” Arone said.
Participants will collaborate on a giant charcoal drawing. Choosing charcoal as the medium was no accident.
Not only is charcoal an easily changeable medium, Arone thought that with the recent fires it would be apt.
“I thought it would be an interesting kind of medium to play with since this big fire has come through here,” he said.
“I heard a lot of artists had lost their studios and I’m hoping they’ll turn up as well and share something through their artwork. It would be great to connect on that level.”
But there is no need to be an artist because Arone loves sharing his skills and techniques.
“I also train my students to draw so I’ll be sharing those techniques to help people who may not have those skills,” he said.
“And because it’s charcoal and you can’t be fussy and it’s a lot of fun, you can move it around quite fluidly, and use different rubber techniques, shading techniques.
“Charcoal is a wonderful medium because it’s very primal and intimately unique. If you don’t like it you can draw it again, rub it out, and it all becomes part of the story.”
On Sensory Sunday, which is also United Nations International Mother Tongue Day, Arone will present an audio described and sensory tour in the morning for people who are blind or with low vision of Thanakupi’s aluminium sculpture Eran (2010). Renowned ceramicist Thanakupi was Arone’s artistic and cultural mentor, and tribal mother, who gave Arone his name, which in her Thainakuith language means ‘crane’.
Arone said people would be able to touch and feel the artwork, with the English names translated into the traditional names, and hear the stories behind the work.
Afterwards, participants can view Spirit Ark with Arone in the Belonging: Stories of Australian Art exhibition.
In the afternoon, Arone will read some of his children’s books, including Enora and the Black Crane, which won the 1992 UNICEF International Children’s Book Award.
The family-oriented Super Sunday events will also include award-winning Wiradjuri singer Johnny Huckle, Carriberrie, the virtual reality experience presented by the National Film and Sound Archive, and local dance group the Wiradjuri Echoes.
Arone said it was important for artists to connect with the community and he was honoured to be asked by the NGA to come to Canberra.
“It’s going to quite an honour to go in there and know that I’m part of this fabulous Belonging: Stories of Australian Art Exhibition,” he said.
“I’m hoping that people who don’t necessarily do the gallery circuit will come along and share in that experience because it’s for everyone. It’s about that human content.”
He said art could play a big part in reconciliation and sharing Indigenous information and knowledge that is not known but which people are hungry for.
The NGA launched its Art Weekend program in January, devoting the last weekend of each month to free events designed to engage the public and draw them into the Gallery.
Between artist talks, low sensory gallery sessions, tours and talks for hearing and vision impaired people, after-dark activities, life drawing classes, and workshops for all ages, the NGA has put together a free program full of access points for everyone to have their own meaningful art encounters.
Each month a guest Australian artist, like Arone, will bring their perspective to works on display.
NGA ART WEEKEND
Friday, 21 February
5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Start your Night Shift this Friday by collaborating on a giant charcoal drawing with artist Arone Meeks. Enjoy live music from Dale Huddleston & the Riverbank Band, and young Wiradjuri singer and dancer Tahalianna Mahanga. Have an art chat with the gallery guides in Belonging: Stories of Australian Art or experience weaving up-close with Gillawarra Arts. All Gallery spaces will be open and food and drinks available for purchase.
Sunday, 23 February
8:30 am to 10:00 am
Sensory Sunday invites visitors to take their time and find quiet spaces in a calm environment before the Gallery opens to the public. Visitors can take part in conversational tours and artmaking activities in the exhibition Belonging Stories of Australian Art. Designed for people on the autism spectrum, people with social anxiety or people who are neurodiverse, Sensory Sunday is a free monthly program. In recognition of the UN Nations International Mother Tongue Day, artist Arone Meeks will present an audio described and sensory tour for people who are blind or with low vision of Thanakupi’s aluminium sculpture Eran (2010). Register for more information.
Sunday, 23 February
11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Bring the family this Sunday for a day of art-making, storytelling and inspiring performances. Listen to the tale of Enora and the Black Crane with artist Arone Meeks. Do the wombat-wobble with award-winning Wiradjuri singer Johnny Huckle. View Carriberrie, a virtual reality experience presented by the National Film and Sound Archive and learn dance moves with local dance group the Wiradjuri Echoes.
To learn more, visit the National Gallery of Australia website.