Rare indigenous art collection depicts history of Australian Aborigines

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 23rd March, 2016

Environmental scientists Tony Norton and Jann Williams have been enthusiastic collectors of indigenous Australian art since the 1980s and, over many years of travelling, have met many of Australia’s leading indigenous artists.

Tony’s interest was first sparked in 1972 by a visit central Australia where he encountered the Stuart Art Centre selling Papunya boards.

Both he and Jann were drawn to richness of western desert art and its deep connection with the desert landscape, iconography, aesthetic qualities and cultural significance.

Now, in conjunction with Mossgreen, they have organised a tightly curated auction featuring 100 carefully selected works from their personal collection.

The auction, entitled Spinifex & Sand, will be held from 6.30pm Monday April 4 at 926-930 High Street, Armadale and features exceptional early western desert boards, key works by Paddy Bedford, Emily Kngwarreye and artists from the Spinifex Arts Project.

Also known as the people of the sun and shadow, the Spinifex people lived on the same expanse of land for thousands of years and, until the 1950s, were virtually invisible to the rest of the country when they were removed from their land for atomic bomb testing.

Returning decades later, the elders were astonished to discover they were no longer recognised as owners of their land.

So began a determined claim for native title and critical to this was the production of 10 large paintings which clearly demonstrated their in-depth knowledge of and deep connection to Ngura (country).

The paintings also detailed the exact location of 500 water sites and natural landmarks – and successfully conveyed concepts of land custodianship.

The Spinifex people thus became the first successful native title claimants on mainland Australia.

The Mossgreen auction features nine works from the Spinifex Arts Project, the quality of which has rarely before been seen at auction.

Another outstanding highlight is fine examples of early Papunya board paintings, created in the 1970s by some of the first masters of the desert art movement.

In particular auction goers should be aware of Big Pintupi Ceremonial Occasion by Anatjari Tjakamarra and Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa by Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula.

Other key attractions include the monumental Gallery of Wandjinas by David Banggal Mowaljarlai, Paddy Bedford’s exquisite and delicately pink hued works Untitled 2004 and Mud Springs (Yoowangeny), painted the same year.

There also are two important works by Emily Kngwarreye – My Country (one of 24 paintings she completed two weeks before her death) and Untitled (Winter Flowers at Alalgura) painted in 1991 during a particularly fruitful period in her career.

The catalogue cover, Taarlpa 2012 by the Martumili Artists Collaborative, is a compelling representation of notions of mutual and reciprocal alnd rights, community, family and Jukurrpa (Dreamings). 


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