Roy Underwood in London

Spinifex Artists are a Special Group of Desert Painters

Roy Underwood in LondonThe Spinifex artists have returned for their latest exhibition at Japingka Gallery, where they first began exhibiting in 2002.  From their homelands in the Great Victoria Desert, the Spinifex people were displaced at the time of the Maralinga nuclear tests during the 1950s and 1960s. Returning to their traditional country had been a cherished goal but also a gradual and arduous process.

But they have succeeded – returning to their country and gaining Native Title to their homelands in 2000. By painting their knowledge of the country, the Spinifex artists have shown how family connections link them to waterholes and sacred sites on ancestral country. The British Museum has collected their artworks, as has the Western Australian Museum and many major private collectors. See the exhibition between 10th October and 7th November 2014. Tjawar Women-on-Collaborative-work Anne Hogan (2) DSC09641

Iwantja Artists Exhibition – Successful Conclusion

Iwantja Artists at Japinkga Gallery, September 2014Congratulations to Iwantja artists for their high quality exhibition presented during September. Paintings have found new homes in USA, Malaysia, Canada and Israel, as well as cities across Australia. Iwantja is at a relatively early stage of setting up its artists’ reputations, so this response is very gratifying.

With twelve artists exhibiting from this small community, the range of paintings is diverse, from subtle Dreaming images from Maringka Burton, to more expressive paintings of  ‘Country Remembered’ by Angkuna Baker, Kanakiya Tjanyari and Mary Brumby. And Tiger Yaltangki always delights viewers with his bold drawing and rich colours. As the exhibition draws to a close, we hope new viewers will continue to visit the show online, as there remains some new paintings and some high quality works that are still available.

Artwork Exhibition by Iwantja Artists OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA _SDR3357 _SDR3358

Spinifex Women's Collaborative, Kungkarangkalpa

Here’s Our New Exhibition From The Spinifex Arts Project

Myrtle Pennington, Spinifex Arts Project

Myrtle Pennington | Kanpa. Spinifex Arts Project

There’s so much excitement here at as we prepare for the new show by the Spinifex Arts Project.

These works are so powerful and vibrant. It’s easy to see why they’re enjoying so much international success right now. In the last year they’ve had successful shows in Germany and Singapore, and the British Museum have added two more of their works to it’s collection.

We are so proud to see the way the Spinifex Arts Project has developed – following their debut exhibition in Melbourne (in 2002), Japingka Gallery hosted their second exhibition (also in 2002), and we’ve held six more exhibitions of their work over the last 11 years.

If you’d like some more background on the exhibition and the life of the artists who produce this extraordinary work, you can have a look at two articles we’ve published about the Spinifex Arts Project. These are both based on interviews with Amanda Dent, Manager of the project.

In Everyday Spirituality: Paintings from The Spinifex Arts Project, Amanda reflects on where the artists draw their inspiration from and why she feels their work is attracting so much attention. In Working With The Spinifex Arts Project, Amanda describes some of the unique aspects of working with a remote desert community and an arts project such as the Spinifex Arts Project.

It is amazing to understand that these artists are producing all this quality art with the only supporting infrastructure being a shipping container for storing art materials.

For three months of the year the artists cannot work because there is no sheltered working space or studio to work in away from the heat and wind. What these artists manage to achieve in the remainder of the year says much about their passion and commitment.

I’m really hoping you will get to see this new Spinifex Arts Project exhibition when it opens here at Japingka on Fri 10 October (6:30pm start, free entry) and get to see first hand what all the excitement is about.

Exhibition Link:

A Salute To Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye

Kudditji Kngwarreye


We recently interviewed Sarrita King about people who have influenced her and who’s work she likes to collect. Here’s what Sarrita had to say,

Kudditji (Kngwarreye) makes up the majority of my collection. I’ve been lucky enough to sit with him. Every time I talk about him, I have a smile on my face. Every time I look at his art in my home, I smile. I love that experience. I love him as a person and I’ve only had fleeting experiences. Just the richness of who he is.” Sarrita King, September 2014

So who is Kudditji (pronounced goo-beh-chee) Kngwarreye? He was born about 1928 and had a traditional bush upbringing at Alhalkere at Utopia Station.  This is about 270 kms north east of Alice Springs. Kudditji’s first language is Eastern Anmatyerre.  His sister is the most commercially successful Aboriginal artist, Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

Kudditji’s work tends to focus on two main areas – Emu Dreaming, for which he is cultural custodian, and Men’s Ceremonial Dreamings from Boundary Bore.

He is well known for constructing his paintings using strong colours. He reduces his subject down to quite simple forms and transfers the emotional effects of that using colour. He simplifies his ideas into colour. His palette is influenced by the seasons and the weather.

I met him in Alice Springs about 10 years ago.  His work is very powerful, very emotive. It tends to effect people.   Kudditji’s painting is unique among indigenous artists in way he reduces his ideas down to block-like shapes which are then combined with the use subtle use of light and colour.

I can easily understand why Kudditji Kngwarreye and his work have had such an impact on Sarrita even though their styles are ultimately very different. If you’d like to see more of his paintings visit our page Kudditji Kngwarreye . You can also read Sarrita King’s full interview at Sarrita King – Art, Passion and Story Telling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lorna Fencer’s Yam Dreaming In Major Paris Exhibition

Lorna Fencer work in Paris   I’m very excited about a new Paris exhibition Poetry of the Yam. It’s featuring the colourful works of Lorna Fencer and the yam is the main story behind many of Lorna’s paintings. In this exhibition Lorna’s role as a custodian for a yam dreaming story within her Walrpiri culture is being set alongside some yam masks from New Guinea. While it might sound an unusual combination, the drawing together of these two art forms is quite stunning.

Lorna’s work in this exhibition is putting together a significant story from Australia, as the yam was so important for survival of Lorna’s people. What she’s painting is the dreaming stories of how the ancestors created the yam, how they drew it out of the earth, how there was, later, custodial battles between different groups of ancestors over different types of yam dreaming stories. It’s a great legendary, or mythological, history that belongs to Lorna Fencer’s people.

Similarly, the masks from New Guinea are spirit people related to the yam and the equivalent idea of a dreaming. In these works the actual yams have a kind of human or spirit face that is expressed in the mask.

Ian and I spent 8 years working very closely with Lorna Fencer. We visited her in her community. She came and visited us here in Fremantle and painted many paintings while we were doing workshops with her. She came with family members. We traveled all across Australia visiting exhibitions that we put on in conjunction with Lorna and galleries in Sydney and Melbourne and Darwin.

It was a great experience to be alongside Lorna when she saw all her paintings finally up on a gallery wall. They were very big impact paintings. Lorna would often sing or tell the story of those yam dreaming stories, addressing the paintings rather than addressing anyone else. Seeing Lorna have this conversation with her paintings gave me a little lead into the cultural world where her paintings came from.

Lorna passed away in 2006, and her paintings, we think, are amongst the most significant works coming from Walpiri artists in that huge area of the Tanami Desert in central Australia.

We have some wonderful works of Lorna’s here at Japingka, but it’s just great to have Lorna’s work celebrated on the international art stage. I’m so pleased that people in Paris will see her work during a major art festival which focuses on the work of indigenous people. For Lorna to be front and central as part of that event, I think, is really fitting and really exciting for us.

The curator of the Poetry of the Yam is Didier Zanette and you can read his interview about this exhibition and his passion for Pacific indigenous art.

Link: Poetry of the Yam – An Interview with Didier ZanetteLorna Paris 3Lorna Paris 1Lorna Paris 2Lorna Paris 4

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards NATSIAA 2014 Japingka 2

Stunning Entries in the 2014 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards NATSIAA 2014 Japingka 2

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) 2014. Image by Japingka Gallery.

This years Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards were just fantastic.

I haven’t been to the Awards in five years. I used to go every year, but I became disillusioned and decided not to go anymore.

For me it had become more of a political competition. It seemed to matter who was the most politically correct rather than keeping the sole focus on the stardard of art. For me it’s always been about the art and the culture. That’s the way we’ve always focused our interest.

The Awards just seemed to lose their way for a while. In the last one I saw five years ago, the political inviting was so evident in what was up on the walls. It was a weak show. A lot of people hadn’t bothered even entering. The Awards as they were then no longer inspired me.

It used to be such an exciting event. The first few years were absolutely staggering. The quality and the depth of the artwork just inspired everyone. Everyone who was anyone went there. Over the years it became more political and it became about whether the work was produced by an art center or through an agent or who that agent was. It just lost its direction and I think it was very evident in the standard of work.

This time, while it hasn’t completely put all those problems behind it, they are certainly making good progress. Organisers have narrowed the field down so instead of having a couple of hundred artworks, they’ve come down to under a hundred. That in itself helped fine tune the exhibition and the standard this year was very high.

It’s always going to vary from year to year because of who the judges are, and they’ll all have their own take on what they’d like and what deserves a guernsey. There were some good judges this year and I think it was a good show. I found it was inspiring again.

There was a bit of a buzz, and I think in some ways what was even more a new development over the last few years is the salon de refuse. This is where they had all the other artworks that didn’t quite make it into the finals category. That work was a very high standard. They were absolutely stunning. Why some of them didn’t make it, I don’t know. It’s something you would have to ask the judges.

So yes, it was a tight show and I’d certainly go back again. My congratulations go to the organisers for steering the Awards in such a positive direction.

I’d like to see the politics ironed out even more. I think it’s a shame that a lot of quality artists don’t even bother putting in entries. I think that means they’ve lost a little bit, and maybe quite a lot. Some of the best artists aren’t there and I do think that the Awards and the artists themselves suffer a bit because of that.

Bardon Article 1

New Article about the Influence of Geoffrey Bardon

Geoffrey Bardon was an Australian school teacher who had a significant part to play in the development of the Western Desert aboriginal art movement.

We have recently published a new article that looks at his work: The Early Influence of Geoffrey Bardon on Aboriginal Art

The Influence of Geoffrey Bardon

David Gulpilil in Charlie's Country

Here’s An Excellent Review For Charlie’s Country

David Gulpilil in Charlie's CountryIt’s wonderful when a highly skilled director like Rolf de Heer takes the risks that he does to make a film that explores another layer of the complex story of being aboriginal in Australia.

You’d think it would be so much easier to fund and promote a film that sticks to more commercial pathways and affirms what film goers find comfortable and familiar.

How much more thrilling it is when an artist takes us by the hand and leads us on a journey beyond our experience and in so doing builds a bridge of genuine insight and empathy.

There are so many layers of misunderstanding and stereotype to peel away and this new film Charlie’s Country is another important contribution to building deeper understanding of the experience of indigenous Australians.

Waterbird, Fish, Stingray

Lobo Badari – Arnhem Land

This is a semi-autobiographical film co-written by David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer who have previously collaborated with The Tracker and Ten Canoes.

Charlie’s Country was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.  The quality of David Gulpilil’s performance in this film saw him win the Best Actor award.

Our friends at Aboriginal Art Directory have published an interesting review of Charlie’s Country by Jeremy Eccles.

To find out more about his important film I recommend his review Gulpilil’s Country.

Collector Offers Rare Aboriginal Art From Australia’s Best

I’m excited to be announcing a collection of rare works by Aboriginal artists in an exhibition at Japingka Gallery from 18 July – 20 August called Private Eye. Click here to view the exhibition.

The exhibition will include works from famous Australian Aboriginal artists including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Naata Nungurrayi, Jackie Giles, Johnny Warangkula, Elizabeth Nyumi, Lucy Yukenbarri, Mitjili Gibson, Maxie Tjampitjinpa and Jimmy Pike.

The National Gallery of Australia writes citing Emily Kame Kngwarreye as “one of Australia’s leading painters of modern times.”, and the National Museum of Australia talks of “the genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye”.

This exhibition has come about through private collectors deciding to put significant works from their collection up for sale. This offers art buyers and students of Aboriginal art a great opportunity to survey this significant period in contemporary Aboriginal art through the eyes of  collectors.

I’m also thrilled because the exhibition brings to the market many works from major artists not seen publicly since their purchase in the 1990’s.

These works are especially important to us because many of these paintings are from great artists who have passed away and whose work is rarely on view in public galleries.

What we really have here is a snapshot of works from senior artists at earlier stages of their careers.

They produced their art under specific conditions that gave rise to qualities that are unique to that period of the Aboriginal art movement.

I feel that the exhibition offers us an insight into how WA collectosr built a collection of works during this important chapter of Australian art history.

It’s still a few weeks before the exhibition opens but there’s a buzz around here already.

We’re all looking forward to sharing this special collection with you.

Note: after the exhibition launch, we published an article covering The Emily Kngwarreye Phenonemon.

New Collector Stories – Pixie & The Alma Granites Painting That Started It All


Alma Nungarrayi Granites painting owned by Pixie

A painting by Alma Nungarrayi Granites (also known as Alma Nungarai Granites) sparked Pixie’s interest in aboriginal art. Since her first purchase a year ago she’s added quite a few more aboriginal paintings to her collection. Pixie tells how she’s cleared away her other artworks and even some furniture to transform her home. Here she talks about her collection with Jody from Japingka Gallery.

Jody: Pixie you’ve had the most amazing year since you started your collection.

Pixie: It’s taken me completely by surprise and now I can’t let it go. I have to keep on and on. Even if I stop buying I still have to keep coming back in and looking.
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