This particular painting is one of my favourite paintings by the late great Rover Thomas Joolama. Rover is easily recognised as one of the greats of the Indigenous Fine Art Movement.
He is from Warman or Turkey Creek in the Kimberley region of the north-west part of Western Australia. He was the first Indigenous artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. He is in all the main collections around the world, including the National Gallery of Australia and The Art Gallery of Western Australia.
It’s very rare to see a work of this importance outside of museums today. We just feel privileged in being able to hang it on our wall. Rover was renowned for his less-is-more style. It’s deceptively simple but quite complex. Like most Indigenous artists, he is painting an aerial view of part of his country, and this particular part of the country is Bedford Station, up in the Kimberley.
In the middle there, you’ve got the valley running through it, the darker areas representing the hills surrounding the valley and the gentle slopes running off from there. This is an early-ish work from around 1985. It’s painted on plywood.
I believe this shows Rover’s desire to paint things, even when he didn’t always have the materials on hand. I am reminded of the title of a book written about him called I Love To Paint. This artwork is the product of his love of painting. I believe it was actually in Rover’s private collection, one of the artworks he kept under his bed.
The plywood is originally meant to be the panel on a door. I’d say that’s all the material he had to hand. It’s painted in traditional natural ochre pigments. It’s a cracker of a painting. I love the work.
I’m lucky every day I get to look at it because it’s right in front of my desk. Many people are just taken with it when they walk in here. It is a real privilege to have it in the Japingka collection. I hope, one day, we’ll find it a good home. In the meantime, I’m just really happy to be able to enjoy it.