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Before Time Began is the catalogue of the first major Australian Indigenous art exhibition of the Fondation Opale. It largely draws on the Berengere Primat Collection. As its title suggests, the exhibition focuses on artworks in which Dreaming stories that tell of the creation of the Earth play a vital role.
Before Time Began, a quote by Aboriginal artists often heard in Central Australia, functions on two levels. On the level of the story, the narrative, this citation refers to the concept of the Dreaming. It sometimes is used as a way of describing the creational process of the Dreaming to outsiders. The reference to “time” perhaps helps Europeans, whose relation to time bears different connotations, to begin to grasp this very complex and innate concept during which the land was shaped through the deeds of the ancestral Dreaming beings.
Equally important are the beginnings of the contemporary art movement. Through several early artworks from Arnhem Land or Papunya boards dating from the early 1970s, as well as recent artworks from the APY Lands, part of then art history of contemporary Aboriginal painting is explored.
From an art-historical point of view, the title freely evokes the beginnings, the genesis of contemporary Indigenous Australian art in some remote regions. For this exhibition, these are in particular the western and central desert regions, Arnhem Land and the Kimberley. The current state of the arts becomes richly manifest with very recent works of the APY Lands in which contemporary and traditional art, and ancestral knowledge and new developments in society meet. Two major collaborative paintings and the Kulata Tjuta, an installation made of 1,500 wooden spears and objects, form the cornerstones of this presentation.