In a remote corner of Arnhem Land sits Yirrkala Print Space, where, for over twenty years, the ancient craft of printmaking has not only survived, but prospered. Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression celebrates this space with works from 50 artists, which provide a privileged insight into the nuances and stories of the art of the Yolngu of Northeast Arnhem Land.
The exhibition title, Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression, translates to mean a mark made as a sign for people to follow. It describes a situation where one group goes ahead but wants to leave a message for those following behind. An impression is scratched into the ground with a sign directing the future viewer to follow the right path. And so it is here.
With works from 50 artists, Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression includes prints that are historically significant. The Berndt Etchings series talks about the Berndt Crayon Drawings of Yirrkala, produced by the artists’ predecessors in 1947, while String Figure Prints are a response to another archaeological collection from 1948. Pieces in this exhibition also reveal the significant impact the introduction of bright acrylics had on artists, which allowed them to explore a whole new genre of artistic storytelling that became a joyous explosion of colour and expression.
Every print has to be the design of the artist’s own clan or connecting clan. The design has to be done very carefully so as not to mix them up, and to understand their story. We have to talk about it with other people in that clan, so when the design is printed there is no problem. It’s a similar idea to the traditional designs used in the bark paintings and the wood carving, but in printmaking we get the direction from our elders to design the image of the outside story only. In the workshop a lot of Yolngu come and watch what we do in the print studio so they can understand the process.
Marrnyula Mununggurr and Mundul Wunungmurra Mununggurr
Balnhdhurr – A Lasting Impression is a coming together of cultures and time, providing an opportunity for a wider audience to recognise the accomplishments of a sustainable, functional and thriving print studio operating in an isolated landscape. Yirrkala Print Space began in 1995 when a purpose built area was designed to host a printing press. With over 800 editions by 137 produced through the studio since then, Yirrkala Print Space has become an integral and vital component of the community.
This exhibition is supported by the Visions regional touring program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to cultural material for all Australians.
Selected works in this exhibition are audio described. Have a listen!
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Exploring twenty years of remote printmaking at Yirrkala Print SpaceDenise Salvestro, IMPRINT - Print Council of Australia