The artists of Ampilatwatja have provided a beautiful exhibition in Gallery 2. The collection includes some wonderful lengths of silk scarves which are 1.8 metres long. Just like the paintings, they have enormous detail about the country as well as references to bush medicine and bush plants. The vegetation includes the important plants that people traditionally harvest from this area around Ampilatwatja in Central Australia.
The style of Ampilatwatja art is recognisable as it is full of precise detail in the very minute painting of plants, country and landscape. There are horizons in the paintings, so the artworks read as naïve landscapes painted in rich colours.
The viewer looks at the country from a very high hill or suspended twenty-five metres above the landscape so you can see into the vast distance. You can see the precise details of all the different layers of the landscape and all the different types of vegetation that go across this country. The artists are very bold in the way they apply colour. There are pinks, oranges, blues and reds all brimming through this landscape.
The Ampilatwatja painters have made a conscious decision not to paint Dreaming Stories in the conventional sense that we think of from most Western Desert art. They are not using the kind of iconography that comes from Law and ceremony and other forms of storytelling. Instead they are painting the landscape on which the Dreaming stories occur.
The paintings themselves are so detailed that the information runs from the very top edge of the painting all the way to the bottom edge. There are continuous layers of information about plants, seeds, flowers, hills, rocks, the terrain and everything that grows on it. I find the works uplifting and tremendously informative. They draw you into this great knowledge that the artists have of the landscape.
We are also delighted to see some of these designs appear as silk scarves. I think there are eight designs in the range of limited edition silk scarves. Each has the same level of detail as a painting. We have chosen to hang them like wall-hangings in the gallery and they look beautiful.
There are some remarkable smaller paintings – 30 cm x 30 cm. These evoke the sense of folkloric painting. I think they are well priced, so you can buy a painting for $350 from the exhibition as well as works up to $2,500. It is a beautiful range of work.
This exhibition also comes under the heading “Welcome to Paradise” so the artists of Ampilatwatja are equally happy to embrace that idea of their homelands being special and the pinnacle of meaning and identity for them.
The works come from a folkloric tradition reflecting a connection to the country that is experienced by people who live on the land. This is the imagery of the people of the land, in that sense it is a type of folk art.
There is so much information in the paintings that the viewer can get lost in the rich detail. However if you stand back the paintings are not vibrating and assertive, they are not forcing themselves out at you. They are still and calm paintings reflecting a resolved composition by the artists.
At the heart of this art is an enormous attention to detail. It is very fine work, I think you’ll love it.
View: Artists of Ampilatwatja
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