Maralinga and Australian art at Lewers gallery

Nuclear testing in 1950s
Nuclear testing in 1950s

Black Mist Burnt Country opens at Penrith Regional Gallery and The Lewers Bequest on Saturday, May 26 at 2pm.

Black Mist Burnt Country is an award-winning national touring exhibition of artworks by over 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists commemorating the British atomic tests in Australia in the 1950s.

Selected from public and private collections, the exhibition features artworks from the past seven decades, including Arthur Boyd, Ian Howard, Pam Debenham, Toni Robertson, Rosemary Laing alongside Aboriginal artists such as Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown, Judy Watson, Hilda Moodoo and Yvonne Edwards.

The exhibition presents works across the mediums of painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, new media and music, while exploring the varied perspectives and creative approaches of artists from post-WWII modernists to present-day artists.

Black Mist Burnt Country revisits the history of the British atomic test program at Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello Islands and examines the impact on people and land, as well as its ongoing legacies.

A variety of interactive elements enable visitors to gain insights into the social, political and environmental dimensions, while placing the Australian atomic tests in the context of the nuclear arms race and its present-day realities.

“It is surprising how few people are aware that atomic bombs were exploded in Australia, and how little they know about the dislocation of Aboriginal people, the exposure of Australian servicemen and the contamination of the land,” said J. D. Mittmann, exhibition curator.

“This exhibition offers some remarkable insights into a chapter of our history that has long-lasting consequences, while it poses some important questions in relation to contemporary nuclear issues.”

Local resident, the late Jim Henderson, worked for the Australian military at the testing zone and a recording of his first-hand experiences will accompany the exhibition generating additional poignancy.

The project has been produced by Burrinja, Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre, Upwey, Victoria. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program and developed through the Exhibition Development Fund of National Exhibition Touring Support Victoria. The project has also received financial assistance of Gordon Darling Foundation.

Black Mist Burnt Country received the 2017 Museums Australia Victoria Archival Survival Award (Small Museums) and a Highly Commended at the Museums Australia National Conference (Touring and Temporary Exhibitions).