In this article, Ian Plunkett from Japingka Gallery talks about Helen McCarthy and the painting, Mimarunga e Mimelli.
We've known Helen McCarthy from Daly River to the south-east of Darwin for probably 14 years now at least. We had a big solo exhibition of her work around 10 years ago, which virtually sold out within a week. Some of the paintings were large, up to two and a half metres.
One thing about Helen is that she's very distinctive. She has her own style, like all the best artists, that's instantly recognisable, yet she's not painting the same thing over and over again. Instead,she's experimenting, painting different parts of her culture, different stories, sometimes just the seasons, sometimes rituals, with the passing of senior elders. In this case, this particular painting is above her community called Balgal in Daly River, and this is the beginning of the wet season.
This depicts an aerial view of the country around Daly River. Still it's the time when all the berries come into fruit, so they're reds and pinks and purples and burgundies, and it's a time of plenty when all the berries burst into life, into growth. It's a season of plenty for all the people living there.
It is an important painting but it's also a joyful painting, and it's also distinctly Helen McCarthy. It couldn't be anyone else. Her paintings are complex but on the surface appear deceptively simple, but their structure is so much more. She's an innate colourist and artist. She's a painter's artist. She's not afraid to experiment. She'll try different things as long as she gets the result that she's looking for in the end. So she has no fear really.
I've had the privilege of having known Helen for 14 years as a friend. I admire her. She's a larger than life character. She loves life and likes to celebrate life. She works hard, but she also plays hard, and she's admired and feted all around the world. She hangs in some of the best collections around the world, and deservedly so. I'm really proud to know her as a friend, and I really love this artwork we've got in our gallery now. I think it's quintessential Helen McCarthy.