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My new best friend Emily

As a regular visitor to the NGA I tend to visit my friends there. I can’t wait to see Rothko, and I then I like to visit Elsworth Kelly and Jackson Pollock. Upstairs nothing pleases me more than sitting and chatting with John Glover under one of his magnificent Australian trees. On leaving, I invariably nip in to have a quick chat with Fairweather – although he hides up on level 2 near the Members lounge and its easy to get disorientated up there.

I have the urge to see these friends again and again. And like ordinary friends, over time there is a progression of who is at the top of the list. Like Elsworth, for example – he and I have got closer recently because I’ve begun to see his curve in a new light, even though I have always been enamoured by his brilliant orange. And there was a time when I couldn’t wait to see all 23 of Fiona Hall’s wonderfully erotic Paradisus Terrestris but somehow feel short of conversation with her these days.

Nevermind – because I have found a new best friend and her name is Emily.

Emily Kam Kngwarray, Yam Awely, 1995

Emily Kam Kngwarray, Yam Awely, 1995

And just as it is with new best friends, I am entirely smitten! It doesn’t matter to me that she’s telling me a Yam Dreaming story about which I know very little, nor does it matter that she’s a bit hard to find up in the new gallery with her very political friends.

Every time I see her I can feel myself being pulled into her story and wound around her finger. She moves me with the structure of her story -the unravelling of it, the dimension of it dawning on me in the black spaces and with the absolute twang of the pink and yellow ochre. I am buoyed by the looseness of her line yet held aloft by the web she weaves.

The only thing that peeves me is that Emily has to sit up there with the others, being all tribal and serious when in fact I think she’d be much better off downstairs next to Jackson Pollack and Tony Tuckson. Those three would have a ball together, they’ve got so much in common, they’re all so energetic and at ease with paint.

Pity we restrict our thinking in terms of race and history, isn’t it?

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