I began collecting Aboriginal art on my travels around Australia in 1996. Travelling though the outback after my time spent `Renewing the Dreaming’ with Aboriginal elder Guboo Ted Thomas, I appreciated the artistic perspective of some of the Aboriginal artists. The first piece I brought was Douglas Abbott’s. I met his sister at a community on the way to Hermansburg and she told me the story of the Seven Sisters or Pleiades, a star system which occurs throughout Aboriginal Australia, and one which I believe has been in contact with people on earth for many generations.
Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott born in 1954 and raised in Alice Springs by his parents Gordon and Joyleen Abbott. As a young boy, Douglas used to watch Albert Namatjira, Clem Abbott and the original Hermannsburg watercolour artists paint. Clem advised Douglas to find his own style and try to develop it, which he has done with great success. Douglas has been painting for many years, his paintings are found in many businesses in Alice Springs. He mostly paints watercolours on paper, but the one I brought in Alice Springs is acrylic on canvas and a completely different style to the work I’ve seen on the internet.
The next one I brought was a Lily Karadada Wandjina on bark. The wandjina occur as rock art all over the Kimberley and I was fascinated by these spirit beings which couldn’t talk but communicated telepathically. I believe we can communicate with other dimensional beings and people are doing so through channelling and healing and the Aboriginal people have been doing so because they were more developed psychically than we are, having focussed on internal development rather than external development as we have.
Lily Karadada, Wandjina on bark
Lily Karadada (also spelt Karedada) was born in the Prince Regent River area on the Mitchell Plateau, on the north west area of the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Her parents were Wunumbal language group, and Lily’s birthplace was Wumbango Wangurr in her Father’s country, where images of the Wandjina and Bradshaw figures are found at significant sites and rock shelters. Lily was born in the bush next to a spring, and so her father named her Mindindel, which means ‘bubbles’ Lily Karadada specializes in painting the Wandjina spirit with various totems including rain storm (dotting depicting rain generated by the Wandjina), lightning, turtle, owl nightjar and cave springwater. A dotted ground is also characteristic of Lily’s depictions of totemic species and the natural features of her country. Lily Karadada has lived all her life at Kalumburu with her large extended family, who are amongst the most consistent and longest practising Aboriginal artists from this region.
I’m unsure about the next painting. It was purchased in Jabiru while I was living there with my then partner Ron Ivey who brought it from the artist in the local club for me. Its a Mimi spirit and I believe I saw them in Jabiru. They are mischevious spirits.
Trevor Nganjmirra, Mimi Spirit, 1996
Natural ochres on Arches paper,
The artist has painted a Billabong scene with mimi hunting Namarnkol or Barramundi. Mimis feature in many paintings by Kunwinjku people and are believed to be the original beings who taught humans how to hunt, collect food, dance and sing. Mimis still live in the rocks and caves of the stone country although they are rarely seen. In one of his painting Mimis are hunting Namarnkol or Barramundi, the renowned game fish of the `Top End’ of Australia. They grow to extraordinary sizes and are excellent eating. The namarnkol can be found in saltwater as well as freshwater billabongs and rivers. In the background are freshwater lilies which are edible for humans and fish. The male namarnkol has its guts outlined with black. These fish have significance as food and as totems and are most easily caught after the end of the monsoon (March -April) until the humid build-up season (October).
The next painting I brought in Alice Springs after being out to Oodnadatta and the `Pink Roadhouse’ advertised for miles along the way. Its called Milky Way Dreaming and again refers to the Pleiades star system.
Janet Forrester, Milky Way Dreaming, Oodnadatta 1996
Most of the stars in the heavens have stories associated with their origins. It is believed that the stars and planets were once people and animals in the Dreamtime. This is a painting of the story of the seven sisters, which were the mythological sisters of the Tjukurrpa. The seven sisters are being pursued by a Jakamarra man, the morning star in Orion’s belt. In a final attempt to escape Jakamarra, the women turn into fire at Kurlunyalimpa and ascend to the heavens to become stars. Today they can still be seen wandering the skies as the seven stars in the constellation Taurus (Pleiades).
On my recent trip to Sydney I purchased two more paintings to add to my collection. I felt intuitively drawn to an Art Auction and to this painting which I successfully bid on, from Gloria Petyarra, exactly why I have yet to find out. Its interesting that she painted bush medicine leaves and I am an intuitive healer. I feel its an important painting for me, perhaps a connection with the Kurrajong tree or the artist, or a past life in the area
Gloria Petyarra, Bush Medicine Leaves
Gloria Petyarre, sometimes referred to as Gloria Pitjara, is arguably the most famous and significant of all female Australian Aboriginal Artists living and working today. She is internationally acclaimed for her ‘Bush Medicine Leaf’ paintings.
Her career took off with gusto when she won the most coveted Australian annual ‘Wynne Prize for Landscape’ at the New South Wales Gallery in 1999, for what was a most extraordinary painting for its time: A huge, gold and green abstract work, made up of swirling leaf shaped brush strokes, close together on a black background and yet imparting to the canvas the energy and flow of leaves being scattered by a fitful wind, seaweed swirling in a change of tide, or grass billowing in the wind.
The leaves in the winning painting, based on those of the Kurrajong tree which is used for bush medicine, were meticulously painted and yet their apparent freedom of movement gave a lightness and looseness to the creation. So much did this artwork fascinate the essentially nature-loving people of this country, that it was to become one of the most popular styles in Aboriginal art, and in fact became a style that brought many a devotee to the genre because of its resonance with the viewer.
And with her win came a triumph for Aboriginal art: Gloria Petyarre became the first Indigenous Australian artist ever to win a major art prize at the Gallery of New South Wales.
Years later, Gloria still paints her medicine leaf paintings, and is now followed in doing so by several generations of her family members. However, Gloria was and is credited with being the creator of this popular style, is regarded as the most collectible of its proponents, and has had a strong foundation on which to build her career.
Doreen Nungala, Bush Flowers 2014
?Yinarupa paints her traditional land where the women gather to conduct ceremonial business. The sacred designs she paints have an intuitive sense of space and rhythm and are associated with the rockhole site of Mukula. These places are also sites with much food, and the women gather the seeds of the native Acacia. They collect the seeds and grind it into flour and eventually bake bread from this. Her paintings also commonly show rockholes which are important water sources in the desert. During ancestral times a large group of women came from the west and stopped at this site to perform the ceremonies associated with the area.
I also like Barbara Weir’s work, Looking after country, which I think was passed in at auction.
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