Landmarks and Law Grounds
April 12, 2013 - May 22, 2013
When 35 senior male Aboriginal artists paint the great stories of their ancestral lands, the stories are bound to be vast and impressive. Japingka Gallery presents an exhibition of significant Men’s paintings that focus on Landmarks of identity – places and sites that mark out identity in the homelands of the artists. The locations cover sites from the north-west Kimberley to the Western and Central Deserts.
When three brothers Walimpirrnga, Walala and Thomas Tjapaltjarri came into the settlement of Kiwirrkura nearly thirty years ago, with their family group of nine people, they were amongst the last to leave their Pintupi desert homelands and nomadic life in the Gibson Desert.
They had roamed the waterholes around Lake Mackay, along the border country between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and had lived their traditional connection to the Dreamtime sires of their ancestors. It is these ancient Pintupi Dreaming stories that the three brothers now paint, transferring onto canvas what they previously expressed by drawing in the sand and by painting their bodies for ceremonies.
Senior Aboriginal artists of the Kimberley – Freddie Timms, Rover Thomas, Jack Britten, Paddy Bedford and Jack Dale – had grown up surrounded by the cattle station culture on the Kimberley grasslands, and had lived lives as stockmen working the large pastoral leases around their home country. By absorbing the distinctive features of terrain, soil type and geographic markers on the land, these men later painted in ochre the large planar maps of the country that also made reference to the Ngarrangkarni or Dreaming events that took place here.
Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri joined the Aboriginal art movement only in the last four years of his long life. His paintings depict the ancestral white cockatoo Dreaming story of his birthplace, Pirupa Alka, near the Olgas in Central Australia. This is the Creation story for the Country and landforms that Bill Whiskey painted – the cockatoo embodied in a large and brilliant white rock, and the eagle as a tall rocky outcrop, sites now known as Katamala Cone.
The narrative exists as an ancient Dreaming specific to the Pitjantjatjara people of the Kata Tjuta region, but it was not one which had been previously painted. It is a narrative for which Bill Whiskey devised a specific iconography, created using the general conventions of Western Desert painting. The creative output of his impressive paintings formed a new chapter in the very ancient lineage of Aboriginal art.
The extensive stories that underlie these profound artworks give a depth to the artistic heritage that is on show in the exhibition Landmarks and Law Grounds: Men of the Desert at Japingka Gallery until 22 May 2013.