Dorothy Napangardi & Kim West Napurrula
30 August - 04 October 2013
Warlpiri artist Dorothy Napangardi (1952-2013) created strong minimalist paintings of Mina Mina that have become emblematic of this women’s ceremonial site in the Tanami Desert. Her recent death has left a deeply felt loss to family, friends and admirers. Japingka Gallery is hosting a tribute exhibition of the artist’s works, including classic images from her Mina Mina series.
Dorothy Napangardi’s paintings are austere and classic distillations of the Central Desert art style. The artist stated- “While I’m doing my painting I always have my family in mind. A few years ago we went back to Mina Mina to see my country” (Fire-works catalogue, 2007). Dorothy Napangardi’s innovative and distinctive painting style has earned her the reputation as one of Australia’s most important Aboriginal artists.
Dorothy Napangardi was born in the early 1950s at Mina Mina, west of Yuendumu, in the Tanami Desert. Napangardi began painting ‘bush tucker’ stories in 1987 when her children were still young and well after she moved from her ancestral Warlpiri lands into Alice Springs, where she has lived the greater part of her life.
Her first paintings were colourful images of the bush banana dreaming. Working independently of art community pressures and politics left her free to experiment with painting techniques and styles. This, along with pilgrimages back into her homelands in the 1990s, allowed her to refine her visual representation of her Jukurrpa (Dreamings) and stories associated with Mina Mina, culminating in the finely patterned, minimal designs for which she is now so widely recognised.
In 2001, Dorothy Napangardi won the coveted Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for a black and white work, ‘Salt on Mina Mina’. In 2002, she was honoured with a major survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
Dorothy Napangardi’s connection with country is both the subject of and inspiration for her paintings. Her mature works have monochromatic backgrounds on which she paints a tracery of finely dotted meandering lines or ladder-like cells and grids in a contrasting colour. The large salt lake, Ngayurru (Lake Mackay) in the Warlpiri region is also depicted in Napangardi’s work.
Dorothy Napangardi’s dreaming includes the story of the women from Mina Mina who were travelling eastward with their digging sticks, dancing all the way. The Warlpiri Snake Ancestor, Walyankarna, was travelling north. At a certain point they met and for a while the snake ancestor watched the women dancing, without revealing himself. Their dance was enthusiastic and energetic, such that the dust billowed and rose, eventually elevating the Ancestral Snake and bearing him away to Yaturlu Yaturlu (The Granites), located beside a small rockhole that never dries up.
Kim West Napurrula was born around 1960 near Kiwirrkura in the Gibson Desert south of Lake Mackay in Western Australia. In 1963, Kim’s family was met by Jeremy Long’s Welfare Patrol, a historic time when desert families that had come in from the desert were trying to make contact with those left behind. At the time, her family was camping at Willi Rockhole, slightly east of Kintore in the Gibson Desert.
Kim’s family includes her late father Freddy West Tjakamarra, one of the original shareholders of Papunya Tula Artists, and older brother Bobby West, traditional owner of Kiwirrkura and spokesperson for Papunya Tula. Kim West Napurrula was married to Yuendumu George, and lives at the community of Kiwirrkura in Western Australia.
Kim West Napurrula’s country is located around Marrapinti, a significant Women’s Dreaming site. It incorporates desert soakages that run along the border country between Northern Territory and Western Australian. In her paintings Kim West Napurrula depicts her traditional country and the associated Women’s Ceremonies and Dreamings from the heartlands of Pintupi territory. The exhibition opens on Friday 30 August and runs until 4 October. Japingka Gallery is open Mon-Fri 10-5.30 and Sat-Sun 12-5.
Further information is available on exhibiting artists on the following links