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Rover Thomas Paintings

Rover Thomas Paintings

Rover is one of the central figures of East Kimberley painting and a major force in the development of Australian Aboriginal art. All paintings available for sale online by enquiry.

Rover Thomas

Rover Thomas was born in 1926 at Gunawaggi or Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route in the Great Sandy Desert. His father was Wangkajunga language group and his mother was Kukatja. When he was ten years old the family walked north to Billiluna Station on the edge of the Kimberley and Rover began his working life as a stockman. Rover Thomas subsequently worked across many Kimberley cattle stations including Texas Downs.

As a young man Rover Thomas was initiated in the traditional law of the region. Although the Thomas family was displaced from their desert homelands hundreds of kilometres to the south, the extended kinship network that existed for Kimberley Aboriginal people allowed the family group to be absorbed into the regional Aboriginal social system. They were therefore involved in ceremonies and local traditional practices as though they were on their own ancestral lands.

Political changes that followed the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal citizenship saw many Aboriginal family groups moved off the pastoral stations and into Kimberley town fringe camps. In 1975 Rover Thomas moved to the Warmun camp on the edge of the Turkey Creek town.

At the time of this disruption a major cyclone, Cyclone Tracy, demolished Darwin and caused chaos in the Northern Territory. Kimberley Aboriginal lawmen saw this natural disaster as an omen or warning from the ancestral Rainbow Serpent, guiding them to maintain strong cultural practices in the face of white settlement and modernisation.

Rover Thomas had a Dreaming experience of a deceased relative, a visitation that left him with a set of ceremonial songs, dances and images that were to become a public performance called the Krill Krill, that embodied the ritual message contained in the Cyclone Tracy event. Many ceremonies were performed in the Kimberley to reinforce the messages that Aboriginal cultures were experiencing in the face of rapid change. The ceremonies included the dancers carrying painted boards across their shoulders, which were painted images of the major symbols of the ceremony. Interest in these ochre-painted dance boards began to focus Aboriginal art collectors on the East Kimberley art works.

Rover Thomas began as the customary overseer of the painted dance boards, then around 1980 began painting some of the dance boards himself. The ceremonial Krill Krill dance boards created the opportunity for Aboriginal artists to develop new images of country and then to push the imagery into new subjects beyond ceremony. The songs and dances that Rover Thomas had cognised in his Dream for his country provided the context for the expansion of the Krill Krill paintings.

The warnings contained in the Krill Krill ceremony were further extended to encapsulate recent Kimberley history that was marked by conflict and fatal contacts between white settlers and Aboriginal people. Subjects of displacement, massacres and subjugation of lands were also brought into the themes for East Kimberley artists.

Rover Thomas went on to become the central figure of East Kimberley painting and a major force in Aboriginal art. The style that Rover Thomas evolved included elements of his desert upbringing –an aerial perspective and viewpoint, map-like layouts of country and symbolic images – added to the Kimberley ochre styles taken from rock painting and body designs, with his own added intuitive skills. Rover Thomas’ work has been widely exhibited and collected and he is recognised as one of the most significant Aboriginal artists of the late 20th century. Aboriginal art status: Iconic Artist

Individual exhibitions
1994 Roads Cross, The Paintings of Rover Thomas, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
1994 Rover Thomas, Utopia Art Sydney, Stanmore.

Group exhibitions
1986 The Third National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1987 Aboriginal Art from the Kimberley, Goolarabooloo Gallery, Broome.
1987 Art of the East Kimberley, Birrukmarri Gallery, Perth.
1987 Recent Aboriginal Art from Western Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
1988 ANCAAA and Boomalli, Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, Sydney.
1988 Art from the Kimberley, Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney.
1988 Innovative Aboriginal Art of Western Australia, University of Western Australia, Perth.
1988 Recent Aboriginal Painting, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
1988 Creating Australia: 200 Years of Art 1788-1988, International Cultural Corporation of Australia, Touring.
1988 Australian Art Post-1960, Deutscher Gallery, Brunswick.
1989 On the Edge, five contemporary Aboriginal artists, AGWA, Perth.
1989 Turkey Creek: Recent Work, Deutscher Gertrude Street, Melbourne.
1989 A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Westpac Gallery, Melbourne; Design Warehouse Sydney [through Lauraine Diggins Fine Art].
1989 Masterpiece Fine Art Gallery, Hobart.
1989 l’ete Australien a’ Montpellier, Musee Fabre Gallery, Montpellier, France.
1990 Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990: From Australia, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow and touring UK.
1990 Anatjari Tjampitjinpa, Dini Campbell Tjampitjinpa and Rover Thomas, John Weber Gallery, New York, USA.
1990 The Seventh National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1990 Venice Biennale: Australian Representative, with Trevor Nickolls.
1990 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia.
1990 Balance 1990: views, visions, influences, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
1990 Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection, Harvard University, University of Minnesota, Lake Oswego Center for the Arts, United States of America.
1990 L’ete Australian a Montpellier, Musee Fabre, France.
1990 Innovations in Aboriginal Art, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
1990 The Singing Earth, Chapman Gallery, Canberra.
1990 Abstraction, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
1991 Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court, Canberra.
1991 Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia.
1991 Walkabout in the Dreamtime, Virginia Miller Gallery, Miami, Florida, USA.
1992 Crossroads-Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo.
1993 Trevor Nickolls and Paintings by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Ginger Riley Manduwalawala and Rover Thomas, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
1993 The Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1993 Images of Power, Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1993/4 ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; LouisianaMuseum, Humlebaek, Denmark
1994 Power of the Land, Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria.
1994 Identities: Art from Australia, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, Wollongong City Gallery.
1994 Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Old Parliament House, Canberra.
1994 This Land: A Celebration, Utopia Art Sydney, Stanmore.
1994 Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
1995 Stories, Eine Reise zu den grossen Dingen, touring, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Museum fur Volkerkunde Leipzig, Haus der Kulteren der Welt Berlin, Ludwig-Forum fur Internationale Kunst Aachen.
1995 The Twelfth National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1994 Rover Thomas: An Artist from Turkey Creek, Hogarth Galleries Sydney.
1994 This land: A Celebration Utopia Art, Sydney.
1994 Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1994 Roads Cross -The Paintings of Rover Thomas, National Gallery of Australia.
1994 Rover Thomas New Paintings, Utopia Art, Sydney.
1995 Rover Thomas -Well 33 Revisited, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne.
1995 Painting up the Country: Aboriginal art from the Kimberley WA, Cooee Aboriginal art, Sydney.
1995 The Festival of Darwin Art exhibition: Kimberley Printmakers.
1995 Offset and Intaglio. Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle.
1995 Made in the Kimberleys, Moores Building Fremantle.
1995 Northwest and Kimberley Artists, Durack Gallery, Kimberley Fine Art, Broome.
1995 Latest Landscapes, Utopia Art, Sydney.
1995 12th NATSI Art Award Museum & Art Gallery of NT, Darwin.
1995 Stories: Eine Reise zu den Grossen Dingen – Elf Kunstler der australischen Aborigines. Werke aus der sammlung Holmes a Court, Perth – Sprengel Museum,Hannover-Museum fur Volkerkunde zu leipzig – Haus der Kulturen der Welt, berlin – Ludwig Forum fur internationale Kunstt, Aachen.
1996 Figures in the Land, National gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1996 Abstraction: Signs, Marks, Symbols National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne.
1996 ‘This is my country, this is me’ Seattle art museum ,Seattle USA.
1996 Contemporary Australian Abstraction, Niagara Galleries Melbourne.
1996 Flagging the Republic, Sherman galleries, New England regional Gallery, Touring.
1996 Nangara: The Australian Aboriginal Art exhibition-Ebes Collection Sichting Sint-Jan, Brugges, Belgium.
1996 Abstraction: Signs, Marks, Symbols National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne.
1996 ‘This is my country, this is me’ Seattle art museum ,Seattle USA.
1996 Contemporary Australian Abstraction, Niagara Galleries Melbourne.
1996 Flagging the Republic, Sherman galleries, New England regional Gallery, Touring.
1996 Nangara: The Australian Aboriginal Art exhibition-Ebes Collection Sichting Sint-Jan, Brugges, Belgium.
1997 Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Paintings, Songlines Aboriginal Art Gallery, Amsterdam, San Francisco.
1997 Imaging the Land National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1999 Myer Gatner Collection USA.
2000 From Appropriation to Appreciation: Indigenous influences and images in Australian Visual Art. Flinders University Art Museum Adelaide.
2000 Images of the Land, Art Gallery of NSW Sydney.
2013 Landmarks and Law Grounds, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle

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