Japingka Aboriginal Art Online
Ethics & Authenticity
Japingka Aboriginal Art has been associated with Aboriginal art through its Directors for over thirty years. We are committed to fair and ethical trading in all our dealings with Aboriginal art and artists.
Japingka Aboriginal Art is a foundation member of both Aboriginal Art Association of Australia the national body for Aboriginal art organisations and businesses, and of Indigenous Art Code, the Federal Government initiative to establish best practice for quality and ethical standards in the industry.
These exhibitions are open online, so you can view them every day.
Our Gallery at 47 High St, Fremantle is currently fully operational with online orders, and open each day with social and health protocols in place.
8 April - 18 May 2022
Arlpwe Art & Culture Centre is located on Kaytetye Country in the community of Ali Curung, 380 km north of Alice Springs and 30kms east of the Stuart Highway. The art centre represents artists from four main langauge groups – Kaytetye, Warlpiri, Alyawarr and Warumungu. The Art Centre opened in 2008 and the name Arlpwe was provided by the Traditional Owners. Arlpwe (pronounced Arl-boe) means “this country all over, no waterhole, no rivers, only soakage and spinifex country” as defined by Mr Mick Waake. Ali Curung has a population of up to 380 people. The art centre works to support traditional culture as well as introducing new forms of art practice.
‘I think there’s a bit of an Ali Curung renaissance taking place’ says Arts Manager Levi McLean. ‘It’s not a place that’s well known for painting, although there has been a history of exceptional carvers in the past. I don’t think the painting has really been on the radar until now. I think that is about to change. The work is beautiful, fresh, and profound, and it’s wonderful that Japingka can share that with a global audience. It’s a really exciting time.’
‘Each painting on display at Japingka maps a journey. In some works, such as those by Warrick Japangardi Miller , the movements and deeds of ancestral beings are traced through the timeless landscapes they traverse. While Marcus Kemarre Camphoo wields his natural affinity towards large, gestural, and bold abstractions to explore the nuances of his signature ‘grid’ geometry. Other works by Judy Nampijinpa Long , Sarah Nabangardi Holmes and Sonya Napaljarri Murphy pave their way with limited, oxide-rich palettes to reveal the ebb and flow of the landscape and surrounding Iytwelepenty.’
‘Ali Curing is soakage Country. There are no waterholes, no rivers. Only rare weather events bring water to the dry grass plains that envelop the region. For the artists, this fact of life is a theme of many of the works on show. These paintings are inseparable from sacred underground water that sustains life in the bush: they speak to contemporary events as the much as the ancestral.’
‘These concerns are especially pertinent today given the community’s ongoing challenge to the unsustainable water license approved by the NT government for nearby Singleton Station. Last year, alongside other artists from Arlpwe, Sarah, Judy, Sonya, and Warrick protested the decision, facing up to news reporters with both painting and picket. Water rights go further than the twenty-four-hour news cycle. The connection between spiritual life, people and water is enshrined in the various Indigenous knowledge systems that inform these paintings.
The exhibition Arlpwe Artists: Off the Beaten Track is presented in association with Arlpwe Art & Culture Centre and is on display at Japingka Gallery until 18 May 2022.
8 April - 18 May 2022
Nyuju Stumpy Brown (1924- 2011) – her boldly coloured renditions of her ceremonial country of Ngupawarlu sing out with an intensity that highlights the spiritual significance of this country to her identity as a painter and as a cultural lawwoman. Stumpy was always an important woman in the community for law and culture. She carried the Women’s Law from Wangkatjungka side right through to desert side at Balgo. She was senior law woman and traditional owner and custodian of Ngupawarlu. At Nyanpi [corroboree] time, Stumpy ran the ceremonies for young children. She described the ceremonies: “No sleep. All night making Nyanpi right through to daylight. Then we go back to sleep.”
Nyuju Stumpy Brown’s full brother was Rover Thomas. The artistic contribution from both Stumpy and Rover signifies the diversity of Kimberley traditions. Stumpy’s stylistic influences came from the Fitzroy Crossing region, with its use of strong and contrasting colour to define form. Rover’s stylistic influences came from the ceremonial dancing boards of the Gija people, which were created with ochre pigment to mark out sweeping forms outlined in white dots. In the cases of both brother and sister, their art is a central part of Kimberley culture with deep roots in desert culture – Wangkatjungka culture.
In 2002 in an ABC radio interview, Stumpy’s story was translated as follows: “I was born among the sandhills, in my own country. There were no white people. We slept without blankets. All we had was a fire to keep us warm. Yeah. We wore no clothes, completely naked. We used to travel around and go hunting on foot. We’d catch large goannas, bandicoots, blue tongue lizards and possums. We’d eat every bit of these animals, even crush the bones and eat them too. My father and mother would both go hunting. My sister and I would stay near the camp and hunt for small lizards. We’d track thorny devils, following its tiny tracks, until we would find one feasting on ants. We would catch it and look around for more. Then we would cook and eat them and save some for our mother and father.”
“The first time I saw an aeroplane was down near the stock route. It landed near us. We thought the white people might kill us. We were frightened of the white people. So we hid in a wattle tree. We sat under that tree looking out. Then someone said, “It’s gone now, it’s a long way off.” My father and mother were frightened too, afraid we might get killed. So we stayed under that tree and didn’t go hunting in case the plane came back. We stayed there overnight, no food, just the bush tucker we had with us.”
When her parents died early in her life, Stumpy was raised by her uncle who was a drover on the stock route. Stumpy describes her country as “desert country. There are no rivers, we never see running water like rivers, only creeks after the rain, only jilji (sandhills).” This was the time when the stock route was being repaired by Canning’s team, after many of the wells had collapsed from neglect. Stumpy’s uncle Jamali took her by camel part of the way north along the stock route towards Balgo Mission. Then she went with a small group into the mission.
In the late 1930s Stumpy walked from Balgo to the south east towards the Fitzroy valley. She camped at Kupartiya creek, near Christmas Creek. She joined other Wangkatjungka countrymen, and worked at Old Bohemia Downs station. Stumpy had a promised husband, Pukulu, and when she married him they moved to old Junjuwa Mission in Fitzroy Crossing. Stumpy said of her time at old Junjuwa Mission: “We don’t know English. Wash clothes, milk nanny goat, separate milk, make butter, everything.”
Stumpy began painting in the mid 1980s in Fitzroy and began exhibiting in 1991. By the late 1990s Stumpy was living most of the time at Wangkatjungka community, and had become the best known of the Wangkatjungka artists. After a stroke in 2006, Stumpy’s capacity to paint greatly diminished.
The exhibition Ngupawarlu My Country is on display at Japingka Gallery until 18 May 2022.
Aboriginal Art Centres support artists and ensure that their work is sold through ethical channels. Japingka Aboriginal Art is proud to exhibit the work of many Art Centres from around Australia.
Utopia in Central Australia has produced many of the country’s greatest Aboriginal artists. Here is an overview of works of Utopia artists showing their varied styles and techniques.
Aboriginal Art - The Big Picture
Learn more about the context for contemporary Australian Indigenous art.
Art of An Ancient Culture
Aboriginal art is part of the culture of Australian Aboriginal people who have lived on the Australian continent for over 50,000 years. They represent the longest continuous culture to be found anywhere on earth. Examples of Aboriginal art are found in caves and rock shelters, and the oldest of these have been dated back at least 18,000 years.
Scientists are using new technology to see if even older dates will be confirmed. Some of these rock art sites depict animals that are now extinct on mainland Australia and show a time when the climate and ecology were very different to what we have today. This artwork is part of the historical record of the Australian continent.
Modern Materials Tell Creation Stories
Today Aboriginal people use modern art materials to make their paintings, but they still rely on the ancient stories and culture to give meaning to what they paint. At the centre of many artworks are the Dreamtime or Creation stories that tell of how the land and all of nature were created by the Ancestors.
The Dreaming stories connect people to the land and require that the people act as guardians and continue the traditions and ceremonies laid down by the Ancestors. By painting and singing the ancient stories and songs the people maintain their connection to the land and their ancient heritage.
European Impact On Culture
Aboriginal people experienced a massive change to their culture and lands when European settlers came to Australia in 1788 and spread out across the country. In the past 230 years, as many as half of the 200 plus Aboriginal languages have been lost.
Many have survived and are part of the movement today to recognise and preserve Aboriginal languages, knowledge, and culture. From the 1970s onwards there began a change to the way Aboriginal people gained recognition for land rights and cultural respect.
Contemporary Aboriginal Art Movement Begins
A major step happened in 1971 at Papunya, a desert community in Central Australia, when senior men painted a large mural at the school to show the Dreaming story of the Honey Ant. School teacher Geoffrey Bardon had asked young students to paint stories from their own culture rather than paint images taken from western culture.
The elders painted the mural using the symbols familiar in their own culture, possibly intended as a statement of authority and direction marker for the local discussion about art. This action led to a painting group of senior men working at the school. They produced artwork based on their own Dreamings and using the ancient symbols of desert culture.
Aboriginal Fine Art Movement Spreads
The decisive action by Papunya artists gave rise to the Desert Art movement as other communities and artists also started painting their stories using modern art materials.
The early paintings made at Papunya have become very valuable, and by the 1980s Aboriginal artworks were being exhibited in art museums and galleries in cities across Australia and internationally.
Art Centres Facilitate Cultural Expression
Many remote Aboriginal communities developed their own art centres to assist artists with materials and marketing. Papunya, Yuendumu, Balgo, Haasts Bluff, Ernabella, Kintore, and Lajamanu were among the communities that established art centre structures.
Other communities like Utopia relied on resources in towns like Alice Springs, which acted as service centres for the central desert region. Since the 1990s the availability of Art centres has extended to include hundreds of small remote communities.
Colour Palette Expands
The early desert painters at Papunya relied on a range of basic colours, often gouache or water-based paints, using black, white, yellow, red and brown tones. These colours were the ones most like the ochre earth pigments that had been used for ceremonial painting and rock art for thousands of years.
As the artists moved towards modern acrylic paints in the 1980s the range of available colours became much broader and brighter colours were introduced. Whereas men were the main artists at Papunya and women assisted within family groups to work on the men’s paintings, by the mid-1980s women began to make their own paintings. As part of this process, as women artists became well known they also opted for a wider range of colours.
Aerial View of the Land
Many desert paintings use aerial perspective, where the land is seen from above as if painting a map of the artist’s country. This comes from the need for Aboriginal people to keep deep knowledge of their country in picture form and in a song cycle so that they could carry large amounts of information in their heads.
The aerial view paintings often have Dreaming information overlaid on the map of the terrain, giving both a physical and a spiritual account of the country.
Art Brings Income & Cultural Expression
The spread of contemporary Aboriginal fine art has been an important part of life in remote communities. It has provided financial income to artists and their families, while also strengthening traditional culture and its role in everyday life, in schools and all interactions with the wider community.
Art has been able to communicate the values of Aboriginal life to the rest of the world and to overcome language and communication barriers.
Regions, Custodianship, Family Connection
Aboriginal art is regional in style, with each area having its own style and preferences, based on the local Dreamings and the work of influential senior artists of the area. Custodianship of Dreamings is passed down along family lines, and each family only paints those stories that they inherit.
Some regions have elected to use only natural ochre pigment paints while others have chosen to use acrylic paints within a certain preferred tonal range. Many of the artists do their painting in shared working areas, so ideas and techniques are readily observed and shared across generations within families.
Recognisable Art Styles
The art of the Central Desert has been the most influential in bringing Aboriginal artworks to a worldwide audience. Its use of repetitive patterns and mesmerising rhythms that are based on the forms of landscape and tied to Creation stories seems to speak to all universal values.
Other art-producing regions in Australia have a longer history with collectors. In particular, the bark painters of Arnhem Land along the north coast of Australia, have sold their work to collectors since the end of the nineteenth century. The styles seen in these regions use natural materials, ochre pigment on tree bark, and fine linework made with cut reeds. The subjects often include figures of humans and animals, sometimes using what is called the x-ray view, that shows the insides of the animals.
Contemporary Aboriginal Art Has Universal Appeal
While these paintings were admired and collected, they were mostly displayed in ethnographic museums that showed the art of the Indigenous First People.
It took the more abstract work of the desert artists to open up to the modern world about the time-honoured values and knowledge contained within Indigenous cultures. Now, these paintings are shown alongside modern western art in contemporary art galleries and homes of art lovers around the world.