Willie Kew: Nyirla – Old Man Country
21 July – 6 September 2023
Luurn Willie Kew was born around 1930 at the Kingfisher (Luurn) Dreaming site at Nyirla Rockhole, near Well 38 on the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Willie Kew said of his ancestral country- “My place, my country – Luurn, Nyirla. That’s a good one. Two rockholes there. Water runs down from top off hill, from top of rocks, fill him up, big waterhole. Biggest place, biggest rockhole – Nyirla, with trees and rocks all around.”
Luurn Willie Kew maintained a strong affiliation with his ancestral country and the Kingfisher Dreaming that gave him his name. The subject matter of his painting is integral to his identity – and in the process of painting he was totally connected to his country. In his later years Willie Kew refined down his painting style. He had to deal with the affliction of blindness in one eye, and was only able to paint for limited periods of time. His later paintings, made with ochre pigments, capture in a primal way the forces at work in the artist’s desert country – the forces of water, survival, animal tracks, and the living signs of the Narrangkarni Dreaming spirit.
The exhibition Nyirla – Old Man Country is on display at Japingka Gallery until 6 September.