Black Mist Burnt Country review – exhibition covers devastation of nuclear war, Guardian, Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, 12 Oct 16 With works by Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Jessie Boylan, Black Mist Burnt Country homes in on the 1956 British atomic tests in the Great Victoria Desert.
In the new exhibition Black Mist Burnt Country, one photograph by Jessie Boylan sticks out. Yankunytjatjara man Yami Lester stands on the deep red earth next to a single skinny tree. His brown jacket reflects the muted landscape. His hands are clasped on his chest as if in pain, and his eyes, tilted to the sky, are scrunched shut. Yami Lester, you see, is blind.
Lester was just a child when the British tested the atomic bomb near his home in the Australian outback, in what came to be known as Maralinga. “It was coming from the south – black, like smoke,” he later recalled. “I was thinking it might be a dust storm, but it was quiet, just moving through the trees.”
Elders thought it was an evil spirit and tried to use woomera (spear-throwers) to disperse it. But the damage was done. Lester’s family soon fell sick. He lost his sight. The trees, too, shrank, shrivelled and died.
The national touring exhibition, which runs until 2019, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Maralinga atomic tests through painting, sculpture, printmaking and installations. Spanning 70 years, from Hiroshima to today, it covers artistic reactions to nuclear warfare from more than 30 artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Black Mist Burnt Country may be broad in scope but it concentrates heavily on the infamous 1956 Maralinga tests in South Australia’s Great Victoria Desert……….Black Mist Burnt Country is at the SH Ervin Gallery and will tour NSW, VIC, SA and QLD until 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/12/black-like-smoke-exhibition-covers-devastation-of-nuclear-war-in-outback-and-beyond