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ABORIGINAL ART RECENTLY SEEN AT THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

April 12, 2014

ABORIGINAL ART RECENTLY SEEN AT THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

I recently traveled to Ayer’s rock, The Olgas and Alice Springs in Central Australia.

I saw a number of Aboriginal art works, while I was there.

When I returned to Sydney a week later  I was interested in seeing and finding out more about Aboriginal  art at the Gallery of New South wales.

Here are some examples of the art that I saw there.

 

 

ABORIGINAL ART

Aboriginal art is a type of  art native to the Australian Aborigines. Traditional Aboriginal art was inspired by religious ceremonies or rituals.

Aboriginal art is an important part of the world’s oldest continuous cultural tradition. It is also one of the most interesting areas of art. It is based on  totems and the Dreaming. All the designs,  painted or  drawn, have a story behind them.

Symbols are used in Aboriginal art, to show the presence of different things. For example, a ‘U’ shape is the symbol for a man. Aboriginal art is a language in itself, communicating through beautiful patterns. This started around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The paintings are usually done with dark, earthy colors like dark brown, light brown, orange, red, etc.

Also in Aboriginal art there are aboriginal masks. Aboriginal Masks are made of colorful dots and are long and thin.

In Australian Aboriginal culture, life is based on a foundation of beliefs which are called the Dreamtime, or The Dreaming. This a complex set of ideas with deep levels of meanings. The Dreamtime has four parts: The beginning of everything; the life and power of the ancestors; the way of life and death; and power in life. Dreamtime was all four of these things at the same time because it is more powerful than time and space. In it all things exist at once. The Aboriginal peoples call Dreamtime the all-at-once time because they think it is the past, present, and future at the same time. It is a beginning that has no end.

They meet The Dreamtime by doing special dances and singing special songs. Aboriginals believe that people have a part of them that will live forever. This part existed before a person was born and will exist after they die. It exists in The Dreamtime.

All Australian Aboriginals believe in the Dreamtime. Each group and each person has their own stories and traditions. In Central Australia, the Pitjantjatjara call it the Tjukurpa. The Tjukurpa provides the answers for questions about life. It also gives the rules for behaviour and how to live together. It explains the complex relationship between the people, animals, plants and the land. It teaches how and why the land is to be looked after. It provided the information about what could be eaten, the rules of marriage, of growing up and the rituals of death. Some parts of the Dreamtime are only known to those who have inherited the right to the knowledge.

Dreamtime is often used to describe the time before time, or the time of the creation. Most Aboriginals believe that all life is connected to the great spirit ancestors of the Dreamtime. Every hill, water hole, river, the sky, every feature was created in the Dreamtime.The journeys of the ancestors across the country created the landscape, and populated it with plants and animals. These journeys are often told in cycles of stories, songs and dances, known as iwara, or songlines.These great spirit ancestors have not gone, they are still present, even if they can not be seen.The ceremonies of songs and dance keep the people in contact with the spirits. “Without ceremony the land soon dies…”

 

 

 

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VERNON AH KEE
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‘becauseitisbitter’ 2009 by Vernon Ah Kee, features a stanza or ‘lines’ from a poem by Stephen Crane (1871-1900). Crane was a prolific author and his life experiences of war zones, New York and as an expatriate informed his writing earning him a reputation as an avant-garde and often controversial figure. From the earliest days of his career as an artist, Vernon Ah Kee has similarly used text to explore and expose contemporary and controversial issues, surrounding the construction of race and systems of privilege. As the artist states much of his work evolves out of the “experiences of my mother or my grandmother on Palm Island and growing up poor and hungry and seeing privilege played out in front of me”. The use of bold, sans serif text also extrapolates Ah Kee’s desire to state his position plainly, in ‘black and white’, drawing on the slogans and placards of activist politics. Further, the artist’s technique of running words together compels the viewer to engage with the work actively in deciphering and, often, speaking the message.

‘becauseitisbitter’ 2009 has additional resonance in the contemporary context of Australian race relations. The reference to the desert could be interpreted as evoking the federal government’s controversial Northern Territory Emergency Response or the Intervention, as it is more commonly known. This policy, introduced in 2007 and continuing to the present day, initially required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act to effect its measures. Alongside the work of other politically active artists held in the collection, such as Richard Bell’s ‘Pay the Rent’, the work incisively articulates the role of art as a forum for radical agency.

 

————————–IAN ABDULLA

IAN ABDULLA  – 
SWIMMING BEFORE SCHOOL

 

lan Abdulla’s paintings vividly recall his childhood memories of the peripatetic life of the Ngarrindjeri people of the Riverland region in rural South Australia. A hallmark of his work is the juxtaposition of text and image against a flattened foreground, in the manner of an animated narrative. Abdulla’s handpainted annotations are placed dead centre at the top of his paintings, bringing a personal inflection to his stories. His experiences are shared by many Aboriginal people dispossessed of their land and marginalised into a life of seasonal work and scavenging. Yet, as ‘Swimming before school’, 1995, reveals, Abdulla’s richly detailed paintings offer a sense of community despite the hardships of working for a subsistence livelihood on the fringes of a wealthy white farming community. The rapid degradation of the natural resources of the region, and encroaching westernisation of Nunga communities are also as subtly constant as the ubiquitous Murray River.From his participation in a community screen-printing workshop in Glossop in 1988, Abdulla’s transition to painting and increasing prominence is similar to that of many Aboriginal artists from rural or urban communities who have found a voice in the visual arts. Abdulla’s work came to national attention during his first solo exhibition in 1991 at the newly established Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide. By actively supporting the artists of its Indigenous constituency, Tandanya was critical in the fostering of the impressive talents of Nunga artists. In 1993, Abdulla exhibited jointly with Wiradjuri artist, H.J. Wedge, at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, Sydney. An artist-run centre, Boomalli was set up in 1987 by a group of ten Sydney-based Aboriginal artists.Abdulla has also produced three autobiographical picture books, and undertaken commissions for ‘Beyond the Pale: Adelaide Biennial of Australian art’, curated by Brenda L. Croft in 2000, and the Melbourne Museum. For these projects, he created three-dimensional installations that appear as natural evolutions of his paintings. In 1991 Abdulla was named South Australian Aboriginal Artist of the Year, and was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship in 1992. As these awards and his work testify, lan Abdulla is now counted as one of the leading figures in the flourishing of Indigenous art from Australia’s rural communities. 

 

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GLENN SLOGGETT

 

 

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Based in Melbourne, Glen Sloggett has exhibited extensively across Australia, including a touring exhibition with the Australian Centre for Photography, ‘New Australiana’ 2001. Internationally, his work was included in the 11th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, 2004 and the 9th Mois de la Photo ‘Image and Imagination’ in Montreal 2005.

Sloggett’s work depicts scenes from Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy. Devoid of people, his photographs reflect the isolation and abandonment that afflicts the fringes of Australian urban centres. His images don’t flinch from the ugly, kitsch, and bleak. Sloggett says ‘No matter where I go, I always find places and environments that are in the process of falling down. These are the images of Australia that resonate most strongly for me as an artist. I want to capture the last signs of optimism before inevitable disrepair.’ (Glen Sloggett, quoted in A Foster ‘Cheaper and deeper’, ex. Bro. ACP 2005) His images of disrepair are infused with black humour and at the same time, affection for Australian suburbia.

From dumpy derelict flats to pavements graffitied with the words ‘mum killers’, Sloggett’s photographs capture an atmosphere of neglect. One classic image depicts a pink hearse, with the slogan ‘Budget burials cheaper & deeper!!’ stencilled in vinyl on the side window. Another image shows an industrial barrel, on which is scrawled the evocative word ‘Empty’. In a third image, a dog rests on the pavement outside ‘Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning’ – the bold red and yellow lettering on its window in stark contrast to the cracked paint of the exterior wall, and half-clean sheet that forms a makeshift curtain. These images have a profundity that is at once touching and surprising; as Alasdair Foster has commented, ‘In a world of rabid materialism and shallow sentiment, Sloggett’s photographs show us that life really is much cheaper and deeper’.

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LIN ONUS  –
FRUIT BATS

 

 

 

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Yorta Yorta painter, sculptor and activist, Lin Onus developed a distinctive visual language from a combination of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal imagery.Lin Onus was unjustly expelled from school on racist grounds at the age of 14, yet later attended university. He worked as a mechanic and spray painter, before managing his father’s boomerang workshop in Melbourne. A self-taught artist, Onus forged a brilliant career and held exhibitions throughout the world.

Onus’s political commitment was inherent in his work. His Scottish mother was a member of the Communist Party, while his Aboriginal father, Bill, and uncle Eric were leading lights in the Aboriginal rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

After a visit to Maningrida in 1986, Onus began his long and close association with the late Djinang artist, Djiwut ‘Jack’ Wunuwun and other central Arnhem Land artists, including John Bulunbulun. Onus then developed his signature style of incorporating photorealism with Indigenous imagery. It is a virtuoso effect, in which the landscape is overlaid with traditional Indigenous iconography, reflecting his strong ties with his father’s community at Cummergunja Mission, on the Murray River. Onus’s works from this period often have a riddling, Magritte-like quality. A memorable motif in his work is the breaking up of a seamless surface into jigsaw puzzle pieces – a metaphor for the sense of dislocation he felt, caught between black and white, urban and rural, worlds.

In Onus’s sculptures, irony, wit and whimsy are the predominant features. ‘Fruit bats’, 1991, is made up of a flock of fibreglass sculptures of bats decorated with rarrk (crosshatching), hanging on a Hills Hoist clothes line. Beneath this icon of Australian suburbia are wooden discs with flower-like motifs, representing the bat droppings. In this powerful installation, the sacred and the mundane combine. The work was inspired by Murrungun-Djinang imagery, which Onus was given permission to use. In ‘Fruit bats’, the artist shows a head-on collision between two contrasting sets of values, and throws in a few inversions of his own.

The backyard – suburban Australia’s haven of privacy – becomes spooked by the formidable presence of these noisy animals. The pre-colonial bats seem to have taken over and reclaimed their place, in a story worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

George Alexander in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

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ROVER THOMAS

 

ROVER THOMAS –
HILLS OF DURHAM COUNTY
ROVER THOMAS –
COUNTRY CALLED BUTTE

 

ROVER THOMAS

In late 1974, an elderly woman died on her way to hospital, following a car accident on the flooded road to Warmun (Turkey Creek), an Aboriginal community in the East Kimberley. After her death, the old woman travelled eastwards from the west coast of northern Australia. During her journey home, she met other spirit beings. She also witnessed the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracey, understood to be the retributive act of the Rainbow Serpent, warning against the decline of Indigenous cultural practices. In a sequence of dream visitations, the old woman revealed her story to Thomas (who was her son, according to the regional Aboriginal kin system).Thomas’s revelation was the catalyst for the Gurirr Gurirr, a ceremony that recounted historic and contemporary events and associated sites throughout the East Kimberley. During public performances, dancers carried painted boards on their shoulders to illustrate the narrative. Today, the artists of Warmun still refer to their paintings on canvas as boards. Like Thomas and his pioneering fellow artists, the late Paddy Jaminji, George Mung Mung and Queenie McKenzie, contemporary Gija painters use locally mined ochres.The afterlife journey of the old woman and its subsequent cultural interpretation may be understood as a metaphor for the conceptual logic that underpins much Aboriginal art. Nowhere has the merging of past and present, the spiritual and the physical, been more clearly realised than in Thomas’s visionary paintings. His landscapes are corporeal, vacillating between figuration and abstraction to suggest the topography of the East Kimberley and the presence of unseen forces within it. In ‘ndubhill’, 1991, the route of the Great Northern highway passes by a Ngarrankarni shade tree. In Thomas’s tour de force painting, ‘Two men dreaming’, c.1985, the form of an old ancestral man, turned to stone, is accentuated by the gleam of the rising moon. In 1994, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, staged a solo exhibition of Rover Thomas’s work.Although his paintings are now considered synonymous with East Kimberley art, his origins lie further to the south in the Great Sandy Desert, from where he travelled working as a stockman. His paintings have demonstrated the ability of art to not only transcend indigenous cultural borders, but to also become a source of revelation for an international audience. This significance was not lost on Thomas, whose sighting of a Mark Rothko painting caused him to famously remark, ‘That bugger paints like me!’

Hetti Perkins in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

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KUTUWULUMI PURAWARRUMPATU

KUTUWULUMI PURAWARRUMPATU   –  
UNTITLED

 

KUTUWULUMI PURAWARRUMPATU   –  
UNTITLED

 KUTUWULUMI PURAWARRUMPATU

Even within the distinctive island culture of the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Islands, Kutuwulumi Purawarrumpatu’s work stands apart. The Tiwi people share a visual language known as jilamara (design) based on innumerable configurations of mulypinyini pwanga (lines and dots). These designs are individually conceived and used as body markings in ceremonial performance, and also transcribed onto sculptures and paintings. A central tenet of Tiwi culture is the Pukumani funerary ceremony, which commemorates the death of the ancestor Purukuparli and celebrates the lives of those who have passed away. For this elaborate memorial to the deceased, monumental tutini (grave posts) are carved and decorated with natural ochres. At the culmination of the ceremony, after many of days of song and dance, the tutini are erected at the gravesite. Left to the elements, these solemn clusters of bloodwood sculptures stand as majestic sentinels to the endurance of Tiwi beliefs. Pukumani is the wellspring of contemporary Tiwi art, and its influence may be traced to the Indigenous mainland communities of Arnhem Land.

Purawarrumpatu, commonly known as Kitty Kantilla, was a stalwart of Tiwi tradition, well-versed in the nuances of her culture. Her work is stamped with her imprimatur as a senior member of the community, yet also discloses a radical artistic spirit. Purawarrumpatu began working as an artist, outside of a ceremonial context, after moving from the mission on Bathurst Island to a widows’ camp at Paru, in her mother’s country on Melville Island. Here, she and other senior women formed the ‘Paru Mob’, carving distinctive, and usually figurative, sculptures. When working with ironwood became too strenuous, Purawarrumpatu turned to painting and etching for Jilamara Arts and Crafts.

The Tiwi people established Jilamara Arts and Crafts at Milikapiti in 1989 to ensure the maintenance of their cultural heritage. Purawarrumpatu and fellow artist members, such as the late Taracarijimo Freda Warlapinni and Pedro Wonaeamirri, adhere to Jilamara’s aesthetic standard of using a restricted palette of red, black, yellow and white ochre, thereby honouring the traditions of their ancestors. In her paintings, however, Purawarrumpatu often inverted the usual practice of painting on a black ground, instead executing fields of geometric designs and massed colour on a white surface.

Purawarrumpatu’s art embraces the conundrum of meaning and abstraction in enigmatic images that do not easily oblige literal translation. Refusing to be drawn into interpreting her work for an outside audience, she maintained that ‘… it’s from the old times’.

Hetti Perkins in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

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TIMOTHY COOK

 

 

TIMOTHY COOK  –  
UNTITLED

Timothy Cook is a younger generation artist from Melville Island, Northern Territory, who paints for the Jilamara Arts and Crafts Centre.

Inspired by Tiwi ceremonial body painting, in ‘Untitled’ 2002 Cook has painted alternating horizontal lines of red, white and yellow ochre across the canvas, giving the work its cadence and rhythm. Employing natural ochres against a white ground, in the style championed by the recently deceased Kitty Kantilla, Cook has established his place as one of the leading artists of his generation. Cook, like Kantilla, draws on the distinctive traditions of his ancestors to create contemporary paintings that symbolise the dynamism of Tiwi cultural life.

Cook refers to the body paint designs used in the Pukumani ceremony, the traditional Tiwi funeral ceremony, one of the cornerstones of Tiwi belief. His art is also closely linked to stories of Purrukuparli, the Tiwi ancestor whose cultural legacy is revealed in the geometric patterns, common in all Tiwi art, which often depict sites of stories of ancestral significance. Each Tiwi artist has their own individual interpretation of the designs.

Cook has been exhibiting in group exhibitions by Tiwi artists around Australia since 1997 and has had solo exhibitions in Sydney at the Aboriginal and Pacific Arts Gallery in 2002 and 2003.

 

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Taracarijimo Freda Warlapinn

Melville Island, Northern Territory → Australia

TARACARIJIMO FREDA WARLAPINNI   –  
UNTITLED

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TARACARIJIO FREDA WARLAPINNI    –  
UNTITLED
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TJUMPO TJAPANANGKA

 

 

 

TJUMPO TJAPANANGKA   –  
Wati Kutjarra

 

TJUMPO TJAPANANGKA

 

Kanapir, the place of Tjumpo Tjapanangka’s birth, lies between the communities of Wirrimanu (Balgo) and Kiwirrkura in remote Western Australia. Tjapanangka’s acrylic paintings, screenprints and occasional glass works reflect this geographic and artistic intersection. While his painting style is true to the Wirrimanu aesthetic, his work also signals the influence of the westernmost reach of the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative.

News of the genesis of Papunya Tula Artists – the art movement that formed when senior men began painting symbols of their cultural authority and knowledge onto found materials – reached Wirrimanu in 1971, via Pintupi community networks. However, reservations about the appropriateness of translating sacred information onto paintings for an outside audience initially held back the full-scale emergence of the Wirrimanu school. Following the exhibition, ‘Aboriginal Art from the Great Sandy Desert’, at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, in 1986-87, the Warlayirti art centre was established, and soon the explosive vigour and colour of Wirrimanu painting was capturing national attention.

Tjapanangka began painting in 1986. His early works adhered to the classic style of depicting the travels of the Tingari ancestors by painting interconnected circles, although with a Wirrimanu twist. He went on to develop a structure in his paintings that focuses on the spare arrangement of symbolic elements surrounded by a charged energy field of pulsating lines. His conservative use of colour highlights the key motifs and draws the eye through the composition in the manner of an animated narrative. Wati Kutjarra, 2002, relates the story of two ancestral brothers who travelled throughout the Western Desert teaching about the practical aspects of desert life: food gathering, hunting and fire management. The central roundel in the work represents the fire lit by the brothers where they lay down to rest. On either side of the ancestral camp fire – or rockhole, as it is known today – are the impressions left in the ground by the brothers, which remain as features of the landscape.

Tjapanangka is a formidable Western Desert personality whose charisma and maverick style are borne out in his paintings. An inveterate traveller, crisscrossing between the camps and outstations scattered throughout the deserts of Central Australia, he is immediately recognisable by his trademark wraparound sunglasses. Well-represented in the Warlayirti Artists gallery and the newly built cultural centre next door, Tjapanangka’s art is an exemplar of the cultural verve and pride that wells from the heart of the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts.

Hetti Perkins in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

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LUCY YUKENBARRI NAPANANGKA    –
MARPA

LUCY YUKENBARRI NAPANANGKA

 

 

‘Marpa’ 2001 refers to some of the country of Lucy’s grandparents. This country is known as Marpa, after the central rockhole shown here, and is located in the southern Great Sandy Desert. This is important women’s country, who are shown throughout the painting, coming here for ceremony. The dot work throughout the painting represents some of the food available at Marpa, in particular, kantilli or bush raisin. The desert oak, or kurkapi, is also found here and depicted as the three solid bands of colour. The majority of the painting depicts tali or sand dunes which dominate the landscape of the area.

Lucy Yukenbarri comes from country that extends along the area now known as the Canning Stock Route to Jupiter Well and Well 33. This includes such sites as Marpa, Piyulpa, Winpupulla and Wirtjinti. The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture states: ‘Yukenbarri is known among the Balgo artists for having invented a new style of dotting called kinti-kinti (close-close) in 1990 soon after she began to paint. Her early works followed the standard Balgo methods of forming lines by means of rows of dotting and of outlining icons in a similar way. A quietly creative artist, she then moved to another technique in use by other Balgo painters at the time – single colour fields of dotting – but she alone made a next step of moving the dots so closely together that they converged, creating dense masses of pigment on the surface of the canvas. This, together with her exploration of the visible possibilities of black icons for waterholes and soaks, and her use of dark green and blue pigments, gave her work a distinctive style, producing effects unique in desert Aboriginal art.’

Yukenbarri’s husband is Helicopter Tjungurrayi who is also a Warlayirti artist.

 

 

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THE UTOPIA SUITE – SCULPTURES FROM CENTRAL AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 
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DICKIE MINYINTIRI

DICKIE MINYINTIRI    –
KALAYA KALAYA  (2011)
DICKIE MINYINTIRI    –    
WATI WIILU-KU INMA TJUKURPA (2011)
Dickie Minyintiri was born at Pilpirinyi in Western Australia and spent his childhood travelling across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, camping for many years in the foothills of the Musgrave Ranges near Ernabella. He remembers the first non-Aboriginal person coming to Ernabeila and the subsequent establishment of the mission in 1937. After years droving as a shearer and shepherd, Minyintiri is now one of the most important elders of the Ernabella community and a renowned Ngangkari (Healer).

Minyintiri began painting for Ernabella Arts in 2005, first painting on paper and more recently on canvas. His works have been included in numerous group exhibitions from Ernabella since 2006. Ernabelia Arts Inc. is a community-based artists’ association established in 1948. It is only in recent years that the Ernabella artists have taken up the medium of acrylic on canvas, being renowned for their work on batik for many decades. The art centre mission statement is to provide ‘a place where elders, young women and men practice and develop our art, in order to sustain, support and promote our cultural heritage, and to improve the lifestyle of our community’s members.’

 

 

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HARRY TJUTJUNA

    –   WANKA  (SPIDER)

HARRY TJUTJUNA

    –   WANKA  (SPIDER)

 

 

 

Harry Tjutjuna   –

Harry Tjutjuna was born circa 1930 at Walytjatjara, north east of Pipalyatjara, near the tri-state border of South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia. He is a Pitjantjatjara speaking Ngankari (traditional healer) and senior law man.
As a young man he moved to Ernabella Mission where he was educated and went on to work on the settlement. His jobs included working on bore sinking, fencing, gardening, and tending to the sheep. The mission’s purpose (since its foundation in 1937) was primarily to provide the medical services and education for the local Anangu (Aboriginal people).Later Harry moved back to the far north-west with his family, living mostly in and around Wingellina, WA, and Pipalyatjara on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, SA.Harry first started painting in 2005 at Ernabella Arts Centre before moving to Pipalyatjara in 2008 where he now paints at Ninuku Arts. Harry has a few favourite dreamtime stories including Wati Wanka: Spider man; Wati Nyiru, the man who chases the seven sisters; Wati Malu and the Kungka Mingakri’s, the kangaroo man and the female mice. He also paints Kungka Tjuta, young girls doing milpatjunanyi, the traditional way of telling stories in the sand.His whimsical themes, combined with a masterful use of brush, has quickly positioned Harry as one of the most highly sought-after artists at Ninuku Arts.

‘Old generation are here now and i am old generation too. Lot’s of old generation have passed away. What are you going to do? What happens when I pass away?…… New generation got to learn Tjukurpa.’ (Harry Tjutjuna)

 

 

 

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MAKINTI NAPANANGKA

MAKINTI NAPANANGKA  –
UNTITLED

 

MAKINTI NAPANANGKA    –
UNTITLED

 

This painting depicts designs associated with the site of Lupulnga, a rockhole situated south of the Kintore community. The peewee dreaming is associated with this site, as well as Kungka Kutjarra or the two travelling women dreaming.

During mythological times a group of ancestral women visited the site holding ceremonies associated with the area, before continuing their travels north to Kaakuratintja (Lake MacDonald), and later the Kintore area. The lines in the paintings represent spun hair-string which is used in the making of nyimparra (hair-belts), which are worn by both men and women during ceremonies.

 

 

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JAKAYU BILJABU          –          
MINYI PURU

JAKAYU BILJABU   –
MINYI PURU

This painting is a map of where Jakayu was born. Jakayu grew up around Bidu and Nyilangkurr. Bidu is not in the painting. She has painted Nyilangkurr as she moved onto there during her childhood with her mother and father. Yilkarr is Jakayu’s fathers resting place and Wantili is a claypan on the other side of Nyilangkurr.

Wantili is represented by the dark brown dots in the middle of the painting. The rows of lines represent the tali (sand hills), the salt lake at Yilkarr and Nyilangkurr (three big sand hills all together). The circles represent all the water holes including the Wantili Clay pan.

 

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NGUPULYA PUMANI    –
MAKU INMAKU PAKANI

NGUPULYA PUMANI    –
MAKU INMAKU PAKANI

 

Ngupulya Pumani is a senior Pitjantjatjara artist from Mimili in the Southern Desert region. She is part of a renowned artistic family, with her mother, Milatjari Pumani, and her sister, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani both recognised painters. Ngupulya Pumani began painting in 2009 and works through the Mimili Maku Arts Centre. Pumani is recognised for her commitment to Pitjantjatjara law and culture and her works are imbued with the cultural knowledge and artistic skill that come from a lifetime of learning.

In ‘Maku inmaku pakani’ 2012 Pumani offers an exquisite depiction of the Maku (witchetty grub) tjukurpa at Antara. This site is dominated by two rock holes which women care for and celebrate in song and dance when they are full of rainwater. Also important at the site are the plentiful Maku, which are dug up from beneath the witchetty bush and roasted on coals. The red granite boulders that distinguish this landscape are prominent in the work and surround the waterholes and complex web of tjukurpa trails connected to them. The work celebrates the cultural activity of women at Antara and their ongoing role in caring for country.

 

 

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MILATJARI PUMANI    –
NGURA WALYTJA ANTARA

MILATJARI PUMANI    –
NGURA WALYTJA ANTARA

 

 

Born 1928, Pitjantjatjara, Mimili, Southern Desert region

Milatjari Pumani is a senior Pitjantjatjara artist working through Mimili Maku Arts Centre in the remote community of Mimili in the Southern Desert region. The unique cultural inheritance and visual language of artists from this region has come to the fore in recent years as art centres are established throughout the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. These art centres provide the necessary infrastructure for artists to work in a culturally appropriate manner, surrounded by family, actively enhancing the social, cultural and economic conditions of Aboriginal communities.

In the major work ‘Ngura Walytja Antara’ 2012 Pumani focuses on Antara, a site known for its abundance of maku (witchetty grubs). Pumani would often camp at Antara as a child and would spend time with her mother collecting bush foods, while her father hunted for kangaroo and goanna. Pumani’s brilliant colouration in roughly applied dots and expressive iconography scattered across the canvas, celebrate her memories of these trips and capture her attachment to place. Her painting style shows her enjoyment in the act of painting itself and evidences the confidence and freedom of expression that comes from a lifetime of learning and deep cultural knowledge

 

 

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DANIEL BOYD

DANIEL BOYD   –
SIR NO BEARD

 

DANIEL BOYD  –
UNTITLED
Daniel Boyd is among a group of Aboriginal artists interrogating and interrupting the notion of a grand narrative of Australian history. His work comments on the subjugation of Indigenous people and expose injustices of the past from his viewpoint of the present. In ‘Untitled’ 2012, Boyd explores his personal inheritance presenting an idyllic scene drawn from a found photograph of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. The island was home to his great, great paternal grandfather before he was brought to Queensland to work as a slave in the sugarcane fields. Many South Sea islanders were brought here to support this industry between 1863 and 1904, under controversial recruitment processes. They worked for little pay and often endured harsh conditions. Veiled in transparent dots the view of country is partial, incomplete like the recording of history. Rendered in a reduced palette the work is in stark contrast to typical colourful depictions of a carefree island life. It may be seen to allude to the sadness of events of the past and the personal hurt of this in the present.
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UTA UTA TJANGALA   –
Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)

UTA UTA TJANGALA   –
Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)
Uta Uta Tjangala was a gardener at Papunya when he became one of the original group of artists who began painting in 1971. Tjangala is regarded as one of the Pintupi ‘masters’ who began with small-scale paintings on board, and moved on to painting canvases on a vast scale, as in ‘Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)’ 1979. It is an indication of his seniority and ability as an artist that Tjangala was commissioned to create a work of this size so early in the history of Papunya Tula painting. Based on the Tingari cycles of ceremonies, the work depicts ancestral activities over a vast area of the Western Desert and may be seen as a longing for home at a time when Tjangala and many other Pintupi leaders were advocating for the establishment of homelands in their traditional country. This dream was realised with the establishment of Walungurru (Kintore) in 1981 and Kiwirrkura in 1983, which service numerous outstations throughout Pintupi country
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JULIE GOUGH   –
Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land

JULIE GOUGH   –
Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land

“Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land’ refers in part to the Tasmanian shell necklace tradition, my own gap in missing the inheritance of that tradition in my immediate family, and how the processes of dispossession of Country: colonisation: farming, hunting, mining are in part responsible for this gap.

However, probably ironically, my maternal Tasmanian Aboriginal family and my paternal Scottish family have both worked in, and in Tasmania owned, coal mines.
Dalrymple Briggs and her husband Thomas Johnson opened in 1855 their ‘Alfred Colliery’ -.6 km east of Tarleton, Tasmania. Today abandoned, the seam was about 600 mm thick. The family of my Scottish Grandmother, Ann Gough (neé Laird) and Laird, Dobbie, Rennie relatives worked extensively in coal mines in Lanarkshire near Glasgow up to the early 1900s.

The feel of coal in my hands is compelling. Somehow familiar, I feel the pull to collect, sort, drill and thread these giant necklaces. The blackness of the coal dust is somehow disconcerting given it is not the warm charcoal of a fireplace but the darkest coldest blackness of our ancient island’s core. The weight of a coal necklace becomes more than the personal, it seems to be the shared load of our history, I walk with each one around my shoulders once it is made, before it is consigned to a crate. Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land is then a mute memorial, a remembrance of the grim times and an invocation to keep making one’s way forward to comprehend what happened in VDL and where we are today in Tasmania.

The antlers represent the avoidance and anxiety evident across Tasmania today in terms of the mainstream unwillingness /inability to present colonial history as also Tasmanian Aboriginal history. Post 1800 Aboriginal Tasmanian history is afforded space in Bass Strait but is yet to be presented as concurrent and engaged with anglo heritage convict/colonial histories promoted in tourist Tasmania. The stories of the hunt for Aboriginal people are too close to home, too clearly connected with major landholding families to this day to be easily acknowledged outside of art.

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UTA UTA TJANGALA   –  Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)

UTA UTA TJANGALA   –
Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)
Uta Uta Tjangala was a gardener at Papunya when he became one of the original group of artists who began painting in 1971. Tjangala is regarded as one of the Pintupi ‘masters’ who began with small-scale paintings on board, and moved on to painting canvases on a vast scale, as in ‘Untitled (Jupiter Well to Tjukula)’ 1979. It is an indication of his seniority and ability as an artist that Tjangala was commissioned to create a work of this size so early in the history of Papunya Tula painting. Based on the Tingari cycles of ceremonies, the work depicts ancestral activities over a vast area of the Western Desert and may be seen as a longing for home at a time when Tjangala and many other Pintupi leaders were advocating for the establishment of homelands in their traditional country. This dream was realised with the establishment of Walungurru (Kintore) in 1981 and Kiwirrkura in 1983, which service numerous outstations throughout Pintupi country
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TUTINI (PUKUMANI GRAVE POSTS)

TUTINI (PUKUMANI GRAVE POSTS)
 
 

 

TUTINI (PUKUMANI GRAVE POSTS)

In 1958 senior Tiwi artists at Milikapiti (Snake Bay) on Melville Island were commissioned by Dr Stuart Scougall and then Gallery deputy director Tony Tuckson to create 17 Tutuni or Pukumani graveposts. The first major commission of Aboriginal work by a gallery of modern art, this group of Tutuni broke new ground, establishing Aboriginal culture within an art context.

Heralding a shift in tradition, the artists made the conscious choice to produce Tutuni for an outside audience. They employed traditional techniques of carving and painting, but made the sculptures from ironwood, rather than the traditional blackwood, which is reserved for ceremonies.

The Pukumani ceremony is unique to Tiwi. It is a ‘final goodbye’, with singing and dancing accompanying the placement of Tutuni around the gravesite. The first Pukumani ceremony was led by Tiwi ancestor Purukuparli for his baby, Jinani, who was the first person to die; as a result, today all Tiwi must follow his fate.

 

 

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Mithinari Gurruwiwi   –

Djaykung (File snakes)

Mithinari Gurruwiwi   –
Djaykung (File snakes)

 

Mithinari Gurruwiwi   –
Djaykung (File snakes)
Mithinari Gurruwiwi was an exceptional and prolific artist from the Blue Mud Bay area of north-east Arnhem Land. Born in 1929, Gurruwiwi was taught to paint by Mawalan Marika and his works predominantly refer to the Galpu clan’s lands around Caledon Bay and Garrimala, further inland. Gurruwiwi’s works offer a seamless combination of figurative elements and abstract clan designs. His exquisite infilling techniques of delicate dots, fine lines and intricate cross-hatching, contrasted with bold areas of pure colour, enliven his works. This is especially evident in this work, one of the finest bark paintings in the Gallery’s collection. Completed when Gurruwiwi was only 30, the work depicts waterlily-covered billabongs that are home to plump file snakes, valued food sources that are just part of the riches to be found in Galpu country.
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WANDJUK MARIKA

 

WANDJUK MARIKA   –   
Djungguan ceremony

  

WANDJUK MARIKA   –   

 Sea life – Dreaming of the Artist’s mother

WANDJUK MARIKA    –  
DJAN’KAWU STORY
 

 

‘Painting is very important. It’s the design or symbol, power of the land.’

Wandjuk Marika was born on Dhambaliya (Bremer Island), the eldest son of Mawalan Marika. His early life was influenced by the increasing intrusion of balanda (whitefella) influence and activity in Arnhem Land. After the establishment of Yirrkala Mission in 1935, increasing numbers of academics, mining representatives, hunters, fishermen and art enthusiasts visited the region.

Marika grew up learning the skills associated with his future responsibilities as a leader of the Rirratjingu clan and Dhuwa moiety. His father taught him to hunt and his ceremonial obligations regarding the two major Dhuwa ancestral song cycles – the Djan’kawu Story and the Wawilak Sisters. Marika was also one of the first students, and later an assistant, at the Yirrkala Mission school. His facility with English enabled him to interpret Yolngu culture for visiting anthropologists and art collectors, including Charles Mountford and Ronald and Catherine Berndt. Marika started painting on bark when he was in his mid-teens, working with his father.

The beginning of the Djan’kawu song cycle is characterised by descriptions of constant paddling, the rocking of the canoe in which the Djan’kawu travelled, and numerous marine observations. Approaching Yalangbara, the Djan’kawu feel the warmth of the rising sun upon their backs. This moment is wonderfully captured in Marika’s bark painting ‘Djan’kawu Story (The sun rising)’, 1959, which depicts the dazzling sun as it comes over the horizon.

In the painting ‘Sea life (Dreaming of the artist’s mother)’, 1959, Marika demonstrates his association with his mother’s Warramirri clan, and depicts a variety of marine species swimming over the field of miny’tji (sacred clan designs) representing the sea. The dots on the tentacles of the Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish represent its poison buds the poison they emit is said to heat the water and calm the sea.

Throughout his life, Marika wrote letters on behalf of the eastern Arnhem Land clan leaders, including his father, to the Federal Government, protesting unsuccessfully the mining activities that were threatening Yolngu sovereignty over their lands. He travelled extensively in Australia and overseas as a member, and later chairman, of the (then) Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council (1973-79). The unauthorised reproduction of ‘Djan’kawu creation story’, 1959, on a tea towel disturbed him to the extent that he stopped painting for a number of years. Marika became a key advocate for the legislative protection of Indigenous intellectual property rights.

Ken Watson in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

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MUNGGURRAWUY YUNUPINGU

 

 

 MUNGGURRAWUY  YUNUPINGA    –    
The Thunder Spirits (Birimbira)

  

MUGGURRAWUY YUNUPINGU   –  

 Lany’tjung – Barama & Gulparemun

 

MUNGGURRAWUY YUNUPINGU  –   
Lany’tjung story (Crocodile and Bandicoot)

  

MUNGGURRAWUY YUNUPINGU   –   
Lany’tjung story (Crocodile and Bandicoot)

 

 

 

Biranybirany on Caledon Bay is the ancestral country for the three branches of the Gumatj clan, and is home to the major Gumatj totems: Baru (saltwater crocodile) and Gurtha (fire). It is also the homeland of the Yunupingu family. In 1959 – when Munggurawuy Yunupingu painted the Gumatj ancestral fire story on four large barks – he was ceremonial leader, custodian of knowledge and keeper of the law for the Gumatj clan of the Yirritja moiety in north-east Arnhem Land.

In ‘The Thunder Spirits (Birimbira)’, 1961, Munggurawuy shows the Gumatj ancestors as two black serpents shooting bolts of lightning. The ancestor, Yumbulbul, is depicted revelling in the rain from a thundercloud below, with its black centre outlined in yellow and containing wavy lines representing rain. The top section of the painting reveals the different species of marine creatures that emerge after the rain. The miny’tji surrounding the stingray and the crocodile symbolises the sea.

‘Lany’tjung story (Crocodile and Bandicoot)’, 1959, depicts the story of the ancestral fire that burnt across a huge swathe of eastern Arnhem Land, from Biranybirany to Melville Bay. During a ceremony near Caledon Bay, the fire on the ceremonial ground flared up, out of control, and raged northwards. Above this scene, Munggurawuy includes two images of Baru, making the association with the historical fire that caused the distinct markings on crocodiles’ backs.

The patterns of diamond-shaped miny’tji (sacred clan designs) at the top left of the painting allude to Munggurrawuy’s preoccupation with a missing canoe at the time he made this painting. By including this event with the ancestral story, he shows the relationship between the ancestral past and the present. Below this panel, Munggurawuy has painted a bandicoot running from one hollow log to another, showing that the bushfire has burnt itself out. The diamond shapes in this section represent flames and ashes, a swamp fire, leaves and grass aflame, sandbanks, a creek, footprints and seaweed, which are all depicted in different configurations of miny’tji.

Munggurrawuy assisted Birrikitji Gumana and Narritjin Maymuru in painting the Yirritja church panels now housed in the Buku-Larrngay Mulka Museum at Yirrkala. He painted Yirritja designs on a bark petition presented to Federal Parliament in 1963, which outlined Yolngu grievances over the intrusion of mining interests in Arnhem Land. Munggurrawuy’s children particularly Gaymala, Galarrwuy and Mandawuy Yunupingu – have also distinguished themselves as Yolngu leaders in politics and the arts.

Ken Watson in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

 

 

 

 

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PHOTOS OF  ART WORK:

LEONARD EPSTEIN

 

 

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COMMENTARY FROM ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

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