Eight Works. Eight Years. 2000-2007
We are very pleased to offer you eight special paintings from eight significant Western and Central Desert artists who were active between 2000 - 2007.
The first decade of the 21st century was one of great originality and rapid development. While some art centres like Warlukurlangu and Warlayirti were already well-established, the centres in the tri-State border region of WA-SA-NT were still in their formative years.
It is worth remembering that many of these artists – already middle aged or older - had only recently started working with acrylic on canvas. Their lives were semi-nomadic, with spells spent working on pastoral leases or missions. Vehicle ownership was rare and access to remote telephony rarer still. This constellation of circumstances created a unique moment in time where the pressures of a global art market seldom touched the artists; it was the calm before the storm of ever-increasing international recognition and demand.
Throughout the course of art history, early works have played a critical role in understanding artists and movements. They offer rich records of the development of ideas, styles and techniques, and bilateral markers of social and cultural shifts. As such, no meaningful collection is complete without them. For the occasional or new collector, they provide a tangible connection to Indigenous artmaking in the pre-hyperconnected era.
Since these works were created, there have been seismic changes, both globally and throughout Outback Australia. Technology for one has brought innovations that were barely imaginable at the turn of the 21st century. Some of those innovations have altered what, why, and how this art is created.
Art is always a product of its time; the unique conditions that contributed to the creation of these works can never be repeated. For that reason alone, these are works to be treasured.
Judy Napangardi Watson (c. 1925 – 2016. Walpiri) was one of Warlukurlangu’s most renowned artists. Watson’s sister, Maggie Napangardi Watson, taught her to paint. Her style was defined by a dragged dotting and a colourful, high contrast palette. Watson’s predominant theme was the Mina Mina Jukurrpa. Her works are held in the majority of Australia’s public art museums as well as international collections.
Wingu Tingima (c. 1935 – 2010. Pitjantjatjara) Tingima started her painting career at Irrunytju (founded 2001), Wingellina. From there she moved to Nyapari and painted at Tjungu Palya; her close friend was fellow painter and Nyapari matriach, Eileen Stevens. Wingu’s dynamic compositions and a gift for colour singled her out as an exceptionally gifted painter. Her soft dotting spread over a canvas like the clouds of dust kicked up by dancing women. Tingima is respresented in numerous museums in Australia and abroad.
Paddy Japanangka Lewis (c. 1925 – 2011. Walpiri) was a senior painter at Warlukurlangu. He began painting there in the late 1990s. Dorothy Napangardi (d. 2013) is his daughter. Lewis was a senior custodian of the Mina Mina Jukurrpa. His works are defined by their elegant compositions and beautiful, shimmering dotting.
Walangkura Napanangka (Uta Uta Tjangala’s widow) (b. 1946. Pintupi) Her son is fellow artist, Martin (Maatja) Tjampitjinpa (d. 2006). Tjangala was one of the early Papunya Tula artists and highly regarded; he was instrumental in Napanangka’s artistic formation as she helped him infill his backgrounds. Napanangka was as influential on her son’s artistic deverlopment as Tjangala. While mourning the loss of her son, Napanangka began to work on larger canvases; in the late 1990s she had only worked on a small scale. Napanangka, Tjangala and Tjapitjinpa have been described by the National Gallery of Victoria as one of the Western Desert’s greatest artistic lineages. Her works are widely held in public museums.
Pauline Sunfly Nangala (b. 1957, Kukatja) is a long-time painter at Warlayirti Artists, Balgo. Her father was Sunfly Tjampitjinpa, and her mother Bai Bai Napangarti. Nangala’s style is powerful and employs graphic elements in bold colours. In 2019 Nangala was a feature artist in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Tarnanthi festival. Her works have been exhibited extensively around Australia and overseas. Nangala is represented in several public museums.
Billy Thomas (c. 1920 – 2012, Wangkajunga) started painting late in life at Waringarri Arts, Kunanurra. Between 1997 and 2002 he also painted at Warlayirti Artists, producing fewer than 30 works there. From the mid 2000s he was associated with Red Rock Art (closed 2012). Thomas’ early works are often bold in composition and strong colours. His works have been exhibited internationally and are widely held in public collections.
Nora Wompi (1935 – 2017, Kukatja) was one of the Western Desert’s most sought after artists. Her early technique was mostly layers of delicate dots, evolving after some years into gestural brush strokes which seemed to glow from within, the edges of her colour fields and bands merging and gradually evaporating like a desert mirage. She was one of the artists featured in the important Canning Stock Route exhibition which travelled internationally. Wompi exhibited widely at home and abroad and her works are held in many public collections.
Ilpilitja Lyons (b.1950s?, Pitjantjatjara) painted in the early days of Tjungu Palya. He was based at Angatja community, APY Lands. Very little is known about him. Lyons may have been associated with illustrations for a series of language translation booklets in the mid 1970s. The work we present here shows a natural talent with a style not dissimilar to the famous Tjungu Palya artist, Jimmy Baker. It is therefore likely that his focus was on community and cultural projects which left him little time to paint regularly.