Phyllis Thomas, Barramundi and Diamonds

This ochre work from the Kimberley tells a very special ancient story. David Wroth tells us the story behind the painting.

Barramundi Dreaming | Phyllis Thomas | Jap 003649

We have a beautiful ochre painting from Phyllis Thomas hanging in the gallery. It comes from the East Kimberley and it is executed as a very monotone work. There is a soft pink background with all the markings made in white ochre, with a band of U-shaped symbols through the middle of the painting.

The painting represents the great Barramundi story, the Daiwul Creation story, from this part of the country. Phyllis has painted all the scales of the barramundi, as in the ancestral story. The fish was swimming upstream and had to leap over a very high cliff to get through the crevice, to make its way to the next section of water. As the fish leapt, it scraped its belly across the rocks of the cliff and all the glittering scales fell back to earth. This was the formation of the Argyle diamonds that became a feature of that particular part of the country.

This is an ancestral story and it's a beautiful painting. It's very minimal, very simple in its use of markings, but it tells exactly that story that belongs to this part of the country. The fish is leaping out of the water and scraping along the rocks of the cliff face. Here is the scattering of all these shining diamonds or fish scales across the country.

I really feel this story that describes how one of the great resources of the Kimberley came into being. It is beautifully imagined in this painting by Phyllis Thomas.

See More: Aboriginal Ochre Painting