The Vivid Colours of The Tanami Desert

We love exhibiting the Tanami Desert artists and we have a new collection ready to go from Yuendumu and Nyirripi. We’ve had some wonderful paintings over the years from Alma Nungarrayi Granites. These are the amazing Star Dreaming stories that her family are custodians for.

Also for this year’s exhibition we have many new paintings that are quite distinctive. A new generation of Tanami Desert artists are providing fresh insights into their own Warlpiri culture. One amazing example is the series of budgerigars painted in a Pop style with bright colours.

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Karen Napaljarri Barnes has created three paintings using the budgerigar images, the Ngatijirri Budgerigar Dreaming. One bird is painted in reds, greens and yellows, the next one has purples, aquas and white, and the third one has pinks and oranges.

Karen has used the recognisable form of this Central Australian bird while adding an unusual set of colours to its image. In this part of the world budgerigars in the wild are all green and yellow. They flock in huge numbers and head to the breeding grounds. There are traditional Dreaming stories that relate to the Country associated with the budgerigar breeding sites. However these are very much an artist’s Pop image of those wonderful little birds. They sit there staring out into the gallery as though they’re portraits of people. It’s a really wonderful touch.

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There are other much looser abstract paintings from Felicity Nampijimpa Robertson. One is a large painting based around oval shapes that is painted in purples, reds and yellows. There are interlocking circles that merge and lay over the top of each other. It has a really strong impact both through the colour and the simplified structure. Felicity comes from a famous painting family from Nyirripi who are known for their fantastic work.

There’s another work of the women’s Mina Mina Jukurrpa stories that’s come from Gayle Napangardi Gibson. It is beautiful work in greens and blues with references to the vines that the women use for weaving ceremonial artefacts that they use in the women’s ceremony.

The Mina Mina Jukurrpa story continues to be a major theme for women artists from this part of Tanami Desert. One work is an almost astringently coloured. It has pinks and blues and oranges that show the tracks and the sand hills across the country. The colour remains a very significant part of what these artists do, and very intricate patterns make up the Dreaming stories of their country.

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One of the paintings comes across as a work more like what we  are accustomed to in our perceptions of desert art. Is the very fine dot work from Sabrina Nangala Robertson, who is the daughter of Dorothy Napangardi. She’s using the fine dot work that her family is famous for. She’s created a very ornate painting made up of lots of tiny concentric circles in tones of earth colours. It’s very dynamic and covers the entire large canvas.

We also have artworks with large symbolic shapes, patterns associated with Vaughan Springs Dreaming story from Theo Nangala Hudson. She’s created one large painting and two smaller ones sharing these large organic shapes. They look like trees and plants growing out of the central waterhole. There are examples of traditional iconography surrounding those dominant shapes, with the whole painting being held together by tones of magenta and pink and mid red – a very warm desert colour pallette.

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It might be that this exhibition contains some of the last paintings we’ll be exhibiting from Alma Nungarrayi Granites, as she may be nearing the end of her painting career. These are her beautiful Star Dreaming stories. We are always really proud and delighted to have Alma’s stunning work hanging in the gallery.

The work of the Warlpiri artists is hanging in Gallery2. It is our smaller gallery space, and the works create the warm and intense impact of desert colours. There are lot’s of different symbols dominating the work and there’s always great diversity in the ways that artists use the brushes. The colours vary from paintings in greens and blues through to earth colours and to very hot, bright colours.

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Some of the artworks seem very minute, as though looking at close-up observations of nature, and some artworks have big bold statements using large shapes often surrounded with fine dots. There are very bold compositions featuring the night sky – you’re looking from the earth out to the constellations of the night sky.

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This is a wonderful collection. I hope you are able to come in and see this exhibition of Tanami Desert Artists – Yuendumu & Nyirripi in Gallery2 until 29 March.

View: Tanami Desert Artists