Esther Giles Nampitjinpa
Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa (Mrs Bennett)
Kayi Kayi Nampitjinpa
Tjawina Porter Nampitjinpa
Regina Pilawuk Wilson
Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri
Wentja Morgan Napaltjarri
Lily Kelly Napangardi
GUARDIAN SPIRIT—Painting from the northern interior
‘I’m coming to you in this song,
Here I come still holding your law’
—Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa (Mrs Bennett), Punkillpiri 2009
Reflecting on the decade since the passing of Nyurapayia—along with many of her contemporaries from the late desert art movement—it is apparent to me that the paintings were created to transcend the purely aesthetic. Rather, they belong culturally and socially in a place far more important to us. No matter how beautiful the canvases are, the work of the artists is in fact a direct and unbroken communion with the law, spirits and custodianship of this country. This is a law that has been held for countless millennia. For these artists, creating paintings was not just about providing for the gallery system and museums, nor was it about the collections in which the paintings would ultimately hang. Rather, it was a conscious act for these artists to ensure a continuation of the understanding of what makes this place and how we should exist in it. Their paintings contain iconography and stories that intertwine—holding a power that is deeper than any contemporary document that may lay claim to the land.
Imagine for one moment that the visual legacy of the great artists created in the last 50 years never happened. How little would we now understand? The enormity of what has been gifted to Australia and around the world through the Aboriginal art movement is incalculable. It is the usual path for societies to realise what they have after it is gone. As a nation, we are lucky that we have been left with such an exquisite legacy for us to better understand our place in this land. The generosity of spirit of the people who knew it all and have been willing to share it in paint is the greatest endowment for which a society could hope.
Your monthly art news on the run plus invitations to Nanda\Hobbs exhibitions and events