Colours of Ngarrindjeri Country – Exhibition Walk Through

Japingka's David Wroth walks us through some of the highlights of the 2022 solo exhibition by Amanda Westley in Gallery 2 at Japingka Gallery.

This exhibition is Amanda Westley's third solo show at Japinkga Gallery. In the gallery we have a screen showing some photos of the country where Amanda lives and works. This country is around the Coorong, the coastline area of South Australia on the Peninsula. It's adjacent to the mouth of the Murray River. Amanda captures the interaction between the land and the water. It has been the homeland of Amanda's family for countless generations.

These paintings feel very contemporary. They express both the land and the sea, and often the collision of the two. The coastlines that you see are eaten into and broken down by the elements, but they are still strong structures that stand up to the ocean over time.

Amanda Westley  |  Colours of Ngarrindjeri Ruwi | Jap 019758
Amanda Westley | Colours of Ngarrindjeri Ruwi | Jap 019758

Amanda has called this particular painting "Colours of Ngarrindjeri Ruwi", and that refers to the colours of her ancestral land. Ngarrindjeri is the Aboriginal culture of that area. It is the traditional language and culture, with the word Ruwi meaning country. Amanda's personal journey has been about understanding her own people's connection and culture in this part of the country. As she has become more involved in her culture and in her artistic expressions of that culture, she's opening up her doors for people to see a contemporary view of Ngarrindjeri country.

We've already had people from South Australia come through and see these works as we were preparing for the exhibition. They were surprised and delighted that this sort of work is reflecting that part of the country. They were unaware of what Amanda had achieved so far in expressing a very particular view of this coastal country.

Amanda Westley  |  Parni – Rain | Jap 019033
Amanda Westley | Parni – Rain | Jap 019033

Some of the works are clear references to both land and weather. Amanda has called this Rain or Parni. It is talking about the whole watery landscape of that country. When we see photos of the Coorong area, it is a vast streaming expansive area of water. You get a strong sense of what that is all about from Amanda's paintings.

Amanda Westley  |  Sun and Sea | Jap 019751
Amanda Westley | Sun and Sea | Jap 019751

Amanda has called this painting "Sun and Sea." She talks about the sun as being the energy source and a very central image in the language and customs of the Ngarrindjeri people. This painting shows the energy of the sun, and it feels like the more serene and expansive aspect of the ocean. These are the two huge elemental forces that shape life for people in that area, the heat and the vast surroundings of water.

Amanda Westley  |  Ku: Ti – Shell | Jap 019753
Amanda Westley | Ku: Ti – Shell | Jap 019753

In a few paintings, Amanda has adopted a more unstructured approach using dots and merging colours. This one is called "Shell" or Ti. The colours are what we see when we look at sea shells, those peach and beige tones of the inner surface of the shell. The wild coast around South Australia has many coastal coves and areas where shells collect. This work is an abstracted reference to those shells and to that coastal region. The work also refers to this important food source for traditional people along the coast.

Amanda Westley | Thumelin Ruwi – Green Country | Jap 019032
Amanda Westley | Thumelin Ruwi – Green Country | Jap 019032

I think this painting is unusual in both the colour and the feel. It is called "Thumelin Ruwi - Green Country." It refers to the seasonal cycles on the land and how that country can look on the green and fertile South Australian peninsula. This painting has aspects of grey/white areas that are neutral and then these vibrant greens. It makes us think of this other aspect of Aboriginal land in Australia. It is the verdant part of country that is well watered and productive. This painting captures the feel of that area beautifully.