David Wroth from Japingka Gallery talks about some of the paintings the new Rosella Namok exhibition.
Rosella Namok is well known to viewers at Japingka Gallery for the solo exhibitions that she has held here over the past eight years. This year Rosella has contributed new works giving that monsoonal sense of summer heat and rain, but she's introduced some new softer colours.
This is a painting that Rosella has called Sunset Rain. It is full of golds, cool yellows and deep oranges. Like all her paintings, this is very atmospheric and captures the sense of open country along the coast of Northern Queensland on Cape York Peninsula. The effect is that of monsoonal rain sweeping down in front of an ocean backdrop. No one captures the space and the sense of time and light in the way that Rosella does.
As part of this exhibition, Rosella has painted several works on the theme of Clan Groups. These are markings that are representing different family clans from the Lockhart River area of her community. As usual Rosella creates the paintings by putting down multiple layers of colours which she then lays a final coat over. She then scrapes back into the painting using her fingers or using small implements. She creates a sense of body painting and markings that come out of the traditional culture at Lockhart River.
This little painting is an extraordinary, beautiful thing. She has used many magenta pinks and combined them with orange and yellow, and then she's dragged through the marks. You notice lots of parallel lines as the artist has dragged these markings across the canvas. It has revealed the colours underneath and blended the paint along the edges where the paint has set between the different layers. This is Rosella talking about the depth of the clan groups, the depth of the ceremonial markings and the depth of a family connection in her community. A very beautiful little painting.
Rosella is one of three sisters. She loves to paint the sisters together to keep the memory of her two sisters with her. This painting uses very warm colours underneath, which she's covered with indigo-blue and then scraped back the designs. The light concentric lines radiate out of the centre of the image, representing each of the three sisters and revealing something underneath. You can see that there's a red band that runs right through the middle of the image, like a bloodline. It's a very warm image of the connection between three sisters.
In the community where Rosella and her family are from, the women go out and gather the grass and they soak it overnight. They then dry it for a couple of days. By that time it has become a hard material that is ready for weaving. In years past, they used woven baskets to carry food around. In more recent times, the traditions have been kept alive because the community exhibit grass weaving at the community art centre. Rosella made the comment that her grandmother still carries her purse around in weaving grass. This is the term that refers to the baskets and the containers made from local grasses. In this painting, Rosella is celebrating women's cultural activities in her community.
This painting is about another aspect of what you'd call freshwater/saltwater culture along coastal Australia. The artists, like Rosella and Fiona Omeenyo from the community, are very aware of life on the sea. They're very closely attached to collecting shellfish and other food resources along the coast. There is a great tradition of fishing from the sea.
There are also freshwater resources. Deep Lagoon is a wonderful painting of rich blues that the artist striated with these marks, these wandering marks that go across the canvas. She's then cut cross with some very sharp white lines that break up the surface.
We look into this painting, and it's got depth. We are looking into a deep water source. It has that fresh intensity of colour that is about a still lagoon with great depth. The strangely optical lines that traverse the bands of blue then draw us in. I think it creates a surface on the top, like a ripple effect on the lagoon. We look at the deep, rich blue colours underneath and we see the depth of the lagoon.
Rosella has painted a work called Low Tide - Marks in the Sand. This is a classic example of Rosella finding patterns in nature that speak to her about her environment. These are the marks left on the beach as the tide recedes. There are very high tides in this part of the Australian coastline. She has once again worked back red marks representing the lines left by a receding tide against a dark background. The whole image is of one of nature moving. There are probably no better people who document that aspect of nature and environment than Aboriginal artists because they are so closely connected to their country.