18 May 2013

Art I like - Dorothy Napangardi

One of the most memorable moments of my visit to Australia (or rather, Melbourne and vicinity) was seeing paintings by Dorothy Napangardi in the art gallery. Seeing them in a book or on screen is simply not the same - you have to stand beside them and let them dwarf you - they are huge!

I was thrilled to find a book about her work to bring home with me, and today I'm thrilled to find this article. This image is from that article -
"Mina Mina" 2006
Be aware that the painting measures 168cm x 244cm. 

"Napangardi is noted for visually spectacular canvases of Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa, which focus on a number of Women's Dreamings passed down to her from sisters on her fathers side. They are paintings informed by her ancestral relationship to the land and her conceptual geographic view of its most prominent ceremonial sites," says the article at the start ... and at the end, emphasises that these works " are, of course, conceptual views of Napangardi's country and to see them outside of this context would be to lose an important cultural dimension."

And now, quotes within a quote: "According to European art historian Bernice Murphy, this work expresses a form of cultural coexistence. 'It shows both the depth of its cultural background (emerging from a continuing observance of spiritual connections to the artist's own land), and a powerful demonstration of capacities to express those connections in new ways. It extends tradition itself through experimentation and reaches out into the broad domain of visual language in abstract painting; a rich seam of continuing cultural production in the wider world of art.'
"From an indigenous perspective the work reflected a more experiential approach. Valerie Martin Napaljarri, Chairperson of Desart in Alice Springs, remarked: 'To me, Dorothy's work is like nganayi, like Yapa, running through the country, traversing their tracks on journeys over the land. That's what it reminds me of - Yapa crossing one another's pathways as they go travelling.' As Ms Nicholls points out, part of the appeal of Napangardi's work is that it can be appreciated on multiple levels."

The next painting isn't in my book - one of the "aerial views" of surface patterning on the cracked beds of dry salt lakes -

Dorothy Napangardi was introduced to painting in 1987 and started exhibiting in 1991, with naturalistic paintings that show the undulating movement that has become a hallmark of her style. She established her reputation with the "Digging Stick Dreaming" series; when she received custodial rights to paint Mina Mina, her style lost the figurative elements, exploring the visual dynamics of multiple, overlaid grids.

She has been making prints since 2001, often with master American printmakers, for example with Crown Point Press in San Francisco.

Watch her painting here -

I'm sad to learn that she was killed in a car accident in 2013, just a few weeks after this post was written. A well-researched obituary is here.


Anonymous said...

This is just wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Felicity said...

I love her paintings - they are just magical and full of energy. My favourite Aboriginal painter is Judy Watson - have you seen her work? It's incredibly powerful and evocative.