Elsie Napanangka Granites – Shimmering Maps of An Ancient Land


We have a powerful new exhibition of paintings by senior artist Elsie Napanangka Granites. They are about the women’s ceremonial site and it’s impossible not to be moved by them.

The series is called Mina Mina Jukurrpa, the women’s Dreaming stories. It’s associated with a very big salt lake in the central Tanami Desert. There is a lot of refined dot work and a sense of shimmer in the room when you see the works together. They are significant, there’s an ancient energy about them.

The paintings are made up of thousands of dots. Many of the paintings are in black and white, sometimes with selected highlights of earth colours. You will see some bands of yellow and red ochres.


There’s a sweep to them that is about the landscape and the place where the Mina Mina Dreaming site is located. You’ll notice lots of imagery that is muted.

There are large concentric circles that could be runs of salt lakes and dried-up waterbeds and various features you would find in a desert landscape. The shadow of a structure that’s still left in the sand, rather than a bold, hard-edged structures from other landscapes.

There’s a couple of large paintings. One seems to have the dancing track moving right through the middle of the painting. You’ll see the sweeping lines of the Central Desert country rolling out from there.

Elsie Granites paints from a tradition that is quite prescribed in desert art. Every dot is carefully laid down. The colours are restricted in their tonal values. The contrast is between the black and the white and lots of meandering lines. It feels like a windswept desert.


Everything moves with the environment and winds. Elsie finds a way to make different rhythms in the paintings and different contrasts between large areas of white dots. She delineates some really unusually connected, almost geographic shapes. These are all linked up.

This work is like map-making, where people have carried an icon of place deep in their minds eye, and it is represented by a series of shapes and linkages. These icons tell of a travelling story through a particular region and give a map of that region.

Some paintings in this collection look like the star story. Others are about the Ancestor journeys. You can see sites where powerful forces have come together and created truly significant locations. All around wave forms reflect the wandering qualities of the desert, the sand hills streaming out across the landscape.


The paintings have a very strong vibe of their own. I’m not the only person who has noticed that they communicate to you at a cellular level. They get into you from a deep place and connect. The austerity, the structure of these paintings breathes a deep significance. These are paintings about the processes of life that occur over time in a sacred landscape.

Elsie’s paintings project out at you as you stand in front of them. They are remarkable works and I’m delighted that we can share them with you.

You can see the works of Elsie Napanangka Granites in Gallery 2 from Friday 11 November.