Anangu Aboriginal Artists And Their Dreamtime Stories

David Wroth from Japingka Gallery talks about new works from Aboriginal artists of the APY lands in South Australia..

Artists from the APY lands in South Australia have built a strong profile over the last fifteen years. Their work is known for the use of vibrant colour and stories that link powerfully into the ancestral Dreaming stories of their lands. The compositions and the structures of the paintings are bold.

In this exhibition, we have several collaborative paintings as well as individual works from Anangu artists from the APY lands. If you stand in a room full of this work, it is strong. It is powerful. It emits a real sense of connection to country and connection to the creation stories on country.

It's been a pleasure to curate this exhibition. The group of women artists who we focus on in this show have produced some fabulous works. Some of them are working within family groups, so we have a mother and daughter, and sometimes grandmother and granddaughter working together to create stories that are shared down family lines.

This is a painting of the Seven Sisters Dreaming story by Madeline Curley & Carolanne Ken
Madeline Curley & Carolanne Ken | Seven Sisters Dreaming | Jap 016697

The first painting we see on the central wall of the gallery is one of several of the fantastic collaborations between Madeline Curley and Carolanne Ken. This is the Seven Sisters Dreaming story captured in full energy. It feels like the whole universe is spinning in front of us, a vision across the Australian continent. The energy is there in this painting, as it deals with the whole process of creation. You have the feeling that massive forces are being moved. This painting has had a great response from everyone as they come to see it.

Virbrant painting of Seven Sister Dreaming from Alison Munti Riley
Alison Munti Riley | Seven Sisters Dreaming | Jap 016724

Many of the smaller and more intimate works in the exhibition are from the artist Alison Munti Riley. Alison paints the Seven Sisters story. There is structure to her paintings, a geometric layering of country and story. Several of her works break out into a much more organic treatment of the subject. They show how a journey takes place, both in the constellations moving in the sky and the songline that moves across the land. Many of the paintings have a symmetry and a parallel structure that suggests the whole structure of Dreaming stories and the way they're passed down traditionally word for word. We see something in that structure of a Dreaming story that is also part of the structure of the social network. It's part of the family cohesion that the artists adhere to when they tell these very ancient stories. These were learned by heart from their grandparents and great-grandparents, going way back into the past.

Clarise Tunkin and Teresa Baker Minyma Marlilu Tjukurrpa
Clarise Tunkin and Teresa Baker | Minyma Marlilu Tjukurrpa |Jap 016970

Clarise Tunkin has a number of fabulous paintings in the show. This particular painting is a collaboration with her mother Teresa Baker. It is the retelling of the ancestral story of Marlilu. Clarise says that her mother took her to this site on their homelands when she was a teenager. It forms one of the major stories that Clarise Tunkin paints in her work.

It is wonderful to see mother and daughter working on a subject that is a shared narrative from their cultural inheritance. It also comes through their grandmother Kay Baker. This is a strong group of women artists reinforcing their connection to country through their paintings. Clarise's work is imbued with deep red colours, they are intensely strong combinations, multiple hues of reds and oranges. The movement, both of country and of the songlines, the multiple events that are happening within this painting, show us a story that is moving and powerfully presented.


Imitjala Curley's paintng called My Country.

Imitjala Curley is a distinctive painter among the group. She is not a dot painter. She uses bands of colour applied in thick lines. She creates her whole painting from layers of drawing that are composed of linear structures. She then overlays that drawing with the next drawing and a new group of colours. This painting has these extraordinary pink and orange colours. There's something quite sandy, quite earthy about the colours. And yet they are fresh and joyous.

You can see through the layers as though we're looking through the vegetation or through plants that are fruit-bearing. This is a way of looking at the landscape through what it produces. The artist has called this work My Country. It is painted in a strikingly different style to the other artists in the exhibition and it is a wonderful artwork. It does refer to a naive style where you don't have such a structured perspective. Everything is layered on top as though the whole world is taking place all at once.

Patricia Tunkin and Carolanne Ken  |  Seven Sisters Dreaming |
Jap 016969
Patricia Tunkin and Carolanne Ken | Seven Sisters Dreaming | Jap 016969

This is a really rewarding painting. It's very structured - it is a collaboration between Patricia Tunkin and Carolanne Ken. There's something very defined about this painting in its structure and composition. It's quite concrete compared to some of the other paintings in the show. I like it for its energy and I enjoy the very clear structure. It contributes another aspect to this whole vision of the APY lands created by these Anangu artists.

View The Online Exhibition: Anangu Artists - We Carry Story in our Hearts