I’m a big fan of Mitjili Napurrula’s work. When I first saw them at an art gallery in Fremantle, Western Australia, I immediately thought they reminded me of a famous Western artist. At that time I couldn’t put my finger on it, but now I know it was Henri Matisse. And here’s why the main motif that Mitjili Napurrula is so well-known for reminded me so much of Matisse:
Matisse “Oak Leaves” motif:
Mitjili Napurrula “Bush Medicine Leaves” motif:
But, while Matisse only used his Oak Leaves motif sometimes, Mitjili Napurrula has taken the simple form of her Bush Medicine Leaves and developed it to the nth degree, coming up with seemingly endless variations of it, from the very simple to huge, complex structures.
Here is a video showing Mitjili’s creative process. What an amazing artist! I love the beauty in the deceptive simplicity of her paintings. (Note: this is only one of many videos of Mitjili at work, courtesy of DesertArtCentre, who support and sponsor many Australian Aboriginal Artists. If you wish to watch more Aboriginal artists at work, click on the link to go to their YouTube channel).
A while back, I started talking about Australian Aboriginal Art and Artists. I pulled together several YouTube videos that I’d found that demonstrated how some of these artists created their works.
Now I’m going to concentrate on one artist at a time. Australia has a wealth of Aboriginal artists, a tradition that goes back millenia. The artists I’ll be showcasing on my blog, however, will be contemporary ones.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art:
“Contemporary Indigenous art of the western desert began when Indigenous men at Papunya began painting in 1971, assisted by teacher Geoffrey Bardon. Their work, which used acrylic paints to create designs representing body painting and ground sculptures, rapidly spread across Indigenous communities of central Australia, particularly following the commencement of a government-sanctioned art program in central Australia in 1983. By the 1980s and 1990s, such work was being exhibited internationally”.
Susie Bootja Bootja has her own Wikipedia entry. You can also find her biography and photos of her work here.
Here are my favourite paintings by Susie Bootja Bootja, that I’ve taken from Google Images and Pinterest.
Photo of Susie Bootja Bootja (1935-2003)
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Ever since first my 2nd Aunt and then my Dad visited Australia and came back with examples of Australian Arts and Crafts (a grey koala made from real kangaroo fur, tea towels and coasters featuring Aboriginal Art, etc), I’ve been fascinated with all things Australian. And now that I’m living in Australia myself, I find myself constantly amazed and fascinated by Aboriginal Art.
Australian Aboriginal Art is not just one style of art. Each tribe or community has its own style and colours, and each tells its own story. And what a story they have to tell! The Aboriginals have the longest surviving culture in human history. More than 60,000 years of it. That’s certainly nothing to sniff at.
Rather than going into a lengthy discussion on how and what Australian Aboriginal Art is like, I’ve decided to compile a list of YouTube videos showing various artists at work, and showing the different styles and techniques of painting that you can find, and hopefully providing some insight into how the artists think and create. Some of the videos come with funky modern music laced with the primal sounds of the didgeridoo…in fact, I’ve curated some of these videos for the sheer beauty of their music! I hope you enjoy these videos and will search out others to further your own education on this ever fascinating subject.
Most of the videos are courtesy of Desert Art Centre, who represent a good few Aboriginal Artists, bringing their talent from the dusty Outback to the worldwide platform. If you check out their website, there are more than 500 other videos showing their artists at work, that you can easily spend hours getting lost in.
I’ll see if I can speak directly to some Aboriginal Elders or Community to gain more information about each individual artist. And while I’m at it, I might even try taking Didgeridoo lessons! Didgeridoo Breath in arty Fremantle, not too far from where I live, offers lessons in playing the Didgeridoo. Whilst traditional Aboriginals disallow women from playing the didgeridoo, modern society is a little more liberal.
The Artists here are:
Narpula Scobie Natural
Judy Watson Napangardi
George Ward Tjungurayyi
Nellie Marks Nakamarra
Fabrianne Peterson Nampitjimpa