Aboriginal Art

Artists:

Esther Giles

Her traditional “country” is the Tjukurla region, where the art centre is located. Her sister is Tjawina Porter. She returned to live in Tjukurla a few years ago after living in Alice Springs for many years. During to this time, she used to paint occasionally for Tjarlirli when she returned to visit family; hence her profile is not has well-known as it should be.

Nyarapayi Giles

Nyarapayi Giles is one of the oldest women in the community and is highly regarded for her knowledge of tjukurrpa (“Dreaming”). She is best known for her Warmurrungu story paintings, which often depict mesmerising concentric circles that mimic the ochre-filled feathers of emus digging in pits for this richly hued earth. When the emus shake their feathers, the dust billows off into the wind, forming the Ancestral emu spirits associated with the pits. Ochre is considered to be sacred and is widely used for painting up in ceremony and decorating weapons. Such was its value, it was actively traded throughout Australia. Nyarapayi’s works stand as a homage to this precious substance that inhabits a central role within all Australian Aboriginal cultures.

Collections: British Museum, London; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Artbank (Australian Government); Araluen Centre Alice Springs; Lagerberg Swift Collection; Corrigan Collection; City of Joondalup; Sir Charles Gairdner Collection; Artbank; British Museum; W. & V. McGeoch Collection; Harriett & Richard England Collection

Nyankulya Watson

Nyankulya Watson Walyampari (c.1938 – 2012) was a significant and influential founding painter of three of the APY-NPY region’s important art centres: Irrunytju Arts (est.2001-2006); Ninuku Arts (est.2004) and Tjungu Palya (est. 2006). She moved between these communities as family and cultural needs dictated.

Born at a rock hole, Mt. Aloysius, in Western Australia, Watson’s paintings are exclusively of her Country and its tjukurrpa (traditional Law). The symbols in her painting represent significant areas such as rock holes and land formations, all of which were created by the Ancestral spirits that are still active in the area.

Watson’s works are held in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Australia; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of South Australia; Art Gallery of Western Australia; Parliament House Collection, Canberra; Artbank; Araluen Gallery; Australian National University; Deakin University; Flinders University; University of Canberra; W. & V. McGeoch Collection, Melbourne; Beat Knoblauch Collection, Switzerland; Lepley Collection, Perth; Patrick Corrigan Collection, Sydney.

Eileen Yaritja Stevens

Eileen Yaritja Stevens (c.1919-2008) was a powerful woman in life and in art; her brushes carved and jabbed paint into the canvas as she sang the tjukurrpa associated with her paintings. Confident of her knowledge and standing, she dispensed with decorative embellishments. Her vision was bold, defiant and jubilant. She is at heart a painter’s painter; she paints for those who know and understand, and if they cannot understand the cultural basis of her work, then at least they connect with the force of her artistic expression. Stevens had an innate sense that her authority and mastery of medium were indisputable, and she executed both with confidence and spirit. She was a formidable force in the community and studio, and while she could be fearsome if wronged, she was known for her wisdom, humour and warmth.

Her works depict the tjukurrpa story associated with the sacred rockhole, Piltati, which is near Nyapari (where Tjungu Palya art centre is located). Two powerful water serpent ancestral spirits live at Piltati. In ancient times, these brothers took the form of men. These men had two wives, who disobeyed them. The men take revenge on the women by turning themselves into the serpent spirits and leaving snake tracks in the sand. The women start digging for what they believe is good food (snake). They dig for many days as the men never allow the women to catch them. Eventually one woman throws her digging stick into the side of one of the serpents; the other brother is angered, but instead of killing the women, he swallows them whole. This activity formed the valley and string of rockholes around Piltati. The serpent spirits are still there and the rockhole must be approached with the spirits’ permission; a failure to do so will anger them, and their retribution is severe.

Stevens was one of the founding painters of Tjungu Palya, along with her peers Nyankulya Watson, Wingu Tingima, Kuntjil Cooper and Jimmy Baker – now all deceased. She ranks as one of the most important artists from this region. Stevens’ son, Keith Stevens, is now the most senior elder in Nyapari and an artist at Tjungu Palya. When she died in February 2008 at the age of 89, she was still singing and painting with a passion and energy.

Stevens’s work is held in numerous public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Araluen Gallery Alice Springs.

Waririya Burton

Waririya Burton (born c.1925) is one of the most formidable women in the APY Lands. A ngangkari (traditional healer), she is revered for her healing powers; as a ngangkari, she holds an elevated position throughout the area. She started painting on canvas in 2008 and has quickly risen to be one of the most collectible artists in the region. The Tjala certificates for her paintings contain general information because she guards the sacred content of her paintings carefully. As a very senior cultural woman, the content of all of her work is sacred, however its public meaning is kept very vague or general to protect the inner meaning of the tjukurrpa.

Tjala Arts has not issued a CV for Wawiriya for several years, but her works are held in practically every public gallery in Australia. These works are either by her alone, or large Tjala Women Collaborative paintings.

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