The studio of Sally Gabori is very busy. When her toddler was present, her manager hurried across the room once while her assistants brought fresh paint in buckets. The video, in which the artist is primarily shown from behind, depicts Gabori seated in front of a big screen and intensely focused. With a simple wrist motion, she moves the brush uniformly up and down, and it appears that she has been doing it all her life.
When Gabori began painting in 2005, she had already reached the age of 81. She had ten years to produce a work that was both substantial and opulent, and it is currently on display at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. She has long been elevated in her native country: Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabory, better known as Gabori, is one of the leading figures in abstract contemporary art in Australia. Her works are displayed in prestigious locations like the National Gallery in Melbourne, the Gallery of Australia, and the Museum of Modern Art in Brisbane. The Fondation Cartier and private collectors alike are the owners of these pieces. However, the foundation in Paris’ 14th arrondissement is introducing a creative perspective to the majority of Europeans with this first solo exhibition outside of Australia.
Nobody has ever introduced them to modern art.
Australia is not a country that is frequently considered from this location, and Aborigine artwork in particular is associated with a set language of dots and figurative depiction. On the other side, Gabori has embraced the language of abstraction without any prior understanding, but rather with a personal history that suggests anything but a late turn to art. She was born on Bentinck Island, a tiny island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where her parents and thousands of other Kaiadilt people lived for many years. British missionaries started trying to convert the inhabitants of a nearby island in 1914. They were ultimately able to evacuate all occupants of Bentinck Island in 1948 due to the tremendous damage a hurricane did there: Families were separated and placed in camps; the youngsters were expected to be “civilized” and forced to suppress their language. Maids were often young girls.
Sally had better luck. Three of her eleven children who lived to adulthood and were already married to her passed away at an early age. She was a fisherman by trade and, like her fellow victims, had spent her entire life fantasizing about leaving exile. In her mind, Bentnick Island—since uninhabited—became a phantasmagoria that was more stunning, expansive, and vibrant than it likely ever was in reality.
Anyone who views Gabori’s photos will have an understanding of how she views the island, quite literally. Bentinck Island, with its canyons, lakes, and bays, is frequently depicted in enormous forms from above.
This initially appears to be more of an abstract pattern than a mapping. Per Kirkeby, a Danish painter, or a Morris Louis color field picture from the 1950s immediately come to mind. With Gabori, the color zones of blue, red, turquoise, and white encroach upon one another. In one image, arches of pink, white, and yellow resemble a rainbow that has dipped to one side while soft pink is framed by sections of deep black.
Thundi – Big River, a three-meter-long painting from 2010, corrects this misunderstanding: It is a river that gently meanders. The fish traps and nets that the Kaiadilt spread out along the water serve as its black boundary. Another picture features Thundi, the location in the north of the island where Gabori’s father was born; this time it is bright blue and moves across the screen like water during the eb and flow of the tide. The artist proclaimed, “This is my country, this is my sea, this is who I am.” And it is possible to immediately observe the impressions that lighted her interior on Mornington Island up until her passing in 2015.
Sometimes, multiple photos were shot each day.
Paris currently has about 30 of the large estate’s paintings hanging there. It has over 2,000 photographs in total and was created as a result of Gabori’s first visit to the Morning Art Center when he was 80 years old. After that, it seems as though a dam is breaking since occasionally multiple photos are shot in a single day, even though many of them are enormous. One can only be in awe of Gabori’s use of her artistic tools with such aesthetic assurance and naturalness. The ever-changing vistas of the same island with their dramatic weather variations and shifting light conditions never get old for a second, despite the fact that she stays loyal to herself thematically and stylistically over the decade (Fondation Cartier, 261, Boulevard Raspail, Paris). Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., through November 6. 58 euros (catalog).
She requested that women collaborate to produce photos.
The Fondation Cartier begins its third chapter of work while remembering to collaborate with other Kaiadilt. Sally Gabori invited six women, including her sisters and nieces, to collaborate on the creation of up to six-meter-long portraits after making her first trip back to her own country in decades in 2007. In addition to depicting Bentinck Island from above, they also have the distinctive “dots” with their impasto, contrasting border colors. They combine Gabori’s independent painting with the ancient Aboriginal language. Aside from Thundi, the remaining rooms in the foundation are devoted to Dibirdibi, a mythical location, and the region near Nyinyilki, where in 1980 the rights of the indigenous survivors as landowners were acknowledged and an outpost was constructed to allow the Kaiadilt to visit the island.
A massive landscape format with the title “Nyinyilki – Main Baise” was created in 2009. It highlights the brilliance of red and yellow, adds white to represent the distinctive cloud formations or the salt-stained fields, and then adds the black lines of the nets. Then, all of a sudden, it transforms into an abstract design. Bentinck Island disappears completely, to be replaced by a vibrant mirror of the location where Gabori received her life force.