Northern Wings – Private Collection of Helen Read

Strings pulled by BRAG’s Exhibition Coordinator Denise Officer, brings Indigenous art and objects, sourced from the remote art centres as Northern Wings, part of the A Thousand Journeys – The Helen Read Collection which has been on display at the Flinders University City Gallery as part of Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

A Thousand Journeys – Northern Wings is the private collection of Helen Read; aviatrix, midwife-nurse-pilot for the Pintupi Homelands Health Service Kintore, Kiwirrkurra, Gibson Desert Central Australia, artist. Helen is also a gallerist – in South Melbourne and Director of Palya Art and Palya Art Tours. Helen is the Founder and Director of Palya Art, she is also a passionate collector and caretaker of Aboriginal Art. Through her company she works to provide a greater understanding and awareness of Australia’s Indigenous art and culture through combining her love of aviation, art and people.

Piloting visitors across North West Australia Helen has facilitated access to remote communities and interactions with artists and cultural custodians through community Art Centres. Aboriginal art captured the her heart and soul more than thirty years ago when she first worked with Indigenous artists and their communities as a remote area nurse with an aeroplane. As a form of visual diary Helen has built a significant and substantial collection from Australia’s Top End representing the artists, the time and place. The diversity of media and regional styles in Indigenous contemporary art practice was little known at the time.

Currently housed by Flinders University Art Museum, the collection is a rich resource for teaching and learning. This exhibition, Northern Wings, a partial travelogue of Read’s earliest flying journeys ‘out bush’, reflects on the efflorescence of contemporary Aboriginal art practice, its Western reception during the 1990s, and its ongoing resonance in the present day.

As Helen would say, “Flying with traditional Countrymen across Australia’s rich cultural landscape; feeling the soul and reverence reverberating across our Country, was an enormous awakening”.

Thanks to Helen and the astute programming of the Burra Regional Art Gallery – for the first time in Burra, audiences can now see artworks, in person, by some of the key Indigenous artists of the 20th Century.

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