Early bark paintings to spark interest at Melbourne Aboriginal art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 11th March, 2021

Seven early bark paintings from the Gary Bradley estate are being offered alongside the likes of works by iconic Aboriginal artists Emily Kane Kngwarreye and Rover Thomas at Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming Melbourne Aboriginal Art auction from 7pm Wednesday March 17 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra.

The bark paintings (lots 20-24) include Sydney c 1962 (lot 20) by Mawalan Marika (c1908-1967), one of the exceptional ceremonial leaders of his generation who witnessed the encroachment of foreigners into his country and helped bridge the gap between Aboriginal and European Australian societies.

Using art as his main medium, this highly innovative and influential leader painted ancestral and ceremonial images and also took a leading role in the 1963 painting of the renowned Yirrkala Church Panels.

Painting was a way of recording personal experiences and this auction work was one of the few autobiographical efforts that record his visit to a large urban centre.

Mawalan also was one of the first Yolngu people to travel interstate when in 1961 he flew to Sydney for the Art from Arnhem Land exhibition at Qantas House.

Kngwarreye (c1910-1996) art lovers have several paintings from which to choose at this auction including Early Summer Flowers 1990 (lot 11), the sixth work she created in the 1990-91 summer for the Delmore Gallery via Alice Springs.

Two other Kngwarreye works to feature are Anooralya (Wild Yam) 1989 (lot 6) and Untitled 1994 (lot 7).

Another eye catcher is Lin Onus’s Guyi Rirrkyan (Fish and Rocks) 1990 (lot 9) – a marvellous example of the artist’s ability to use a hybrid style that integrated Indigenous spirituality and narrative with Western representational systems.

Born in 1948, Onus was of both Yorta Yorta and Scottish descent and straddled cultural history between millennia by expanding post-colonialism parameters to incorporate the Indigenous voice during his 48-year life.

Rover Thomas (c1926-1998) is another Indigenous icon well represented in this auction with lots 12, Station Hill, Texas Downs 1991, l6, Barragoo (Lake Gregory) 1996, and 40, Yurling 1985.

Celebrated as one of Australia’s most distinguished artists, Thomas also was among the first Aboriginal painters to in 1990 represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Thomas did not start painting until his mid-50s following a tough career as stockman in Western Australia and the Northern Territory – but once he began his output was prolific.

He is widely credited as the founder of the East Kimberley style in which spacious plains of textured ochre depict an aerial perspective of the landscape.

One of the more intriguing lots is Tracey Moffatt’s Something More 1989 (lot 19) full suite of six Cibachrome and three gelatin silver photographs which carry a $200,000-$300,000 catalogue estimate.

Other works include those by Paddy Bedford (lot 13), Freddie Timms (lots 14 and 15), Michael Cook (lot 17) and Brook Andrew (lot 18).

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