Sunday, July 22, 2007

Landscapes at Kalumpiwarra, Yalmanta and Ngulalintji

Among Australian Aboriginal artists, the work of Rover Thomas (1926-98) particularly appeals to me, perhaps because there are some superficial similarities with Mark Rothko, as noted here. However, in an article on Thomas, Wally Caruana remarks on their differences: ‘if Rothko's paintings mirror the human form, then Thomas' are firmly embedded in the landscape.’
Rover Thomas’s Landscapes at Kalumpiwarra, Yalmanta and Ngulalintji (1984), in the National Gallery at Canberra, commemorates an old woman killed by a car accident at Turkey Creek airstrip. It shows, according to Howard Morphy in his book Aboriginal Art, a place on the woman’s spirit journey with identifiable locations: Blackfellow Creek, the rock at Ngarkalin, grass at Yalmanta, a wooded area, Ashburton Hill, Bow River. ‘Although Thomas’s landscapes echo some contemporary Euro-American paintings in style, they come directly out of the art of the Kimberleys... the underlying theme is the spiritual value of the land and the connections between places.’

I couldn’t see Landscapes at Kalumpiwarra, Yalmanta and Ngulalintji on-line but here are some links to other Rover Thomas paintings: Yari Country (1989), Cyclone Tracy (1991), Paruku (Lake Gregory) (1991), Kankamkankami, (1998). And there’s a Rover Thomas painting, All that big rain coming from top side, on Les Murray’s site accompanying Murray’s poem ‘Two Rains’. This work was bought by the Australian National Gallery in 2001 with the record sum for an indigenous Australian painting: $778,750.

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