The ReDot gallery is proud to welcome for the 2nd time in Singapore, the beautiful and colourful works of the Warlukurlangu Artists’ Aboriginal Association, located 300km northwest of Alice Springs at Yuendumu in the Northern Territory.
Yuendumu is the largest community of Warlpiri people, home to about 1000 today, and they have been working with acrylic paint on canvas for more than three decades creating distinctive and unique works in a variety of styles. Some artists produce work using a full palette of vibrant colours and heavily textured surfaces as seen in the art works of renowned Judy Watson Napangardi, whilst other artists produce fine work with highly patterned and delicate dots and lines and often use only the traditional colours. Others still incorporate strong traditional iconic images.
Despite the differing execution, at all times Yuendumu art remains traditional in its themes. The central focus is the very significant site at Karntaklurlangu, located north of Yuendumu in a fertile area defined by two large pans and numerous water soakages. This is the sacred Mina Mina site and the ancestral home for the Napangardi and Napanangka family groups. Many of these family groups produce art works that depict this journey of their ancestors as they crossed the desert to reach the Mina Mina site. Even today the Warlpiri women regularly gather at this site in a ceremony to re-enact this Dreaming story. Here they paint each other’s bodies with Dreaming designs and chant and dance the age old creation story.
The history of the community dates back to 1946 when the ’Native Affairs Branch’ established Yuendumu as a rationing and welfare depot. Many people were moved from their traditional lands into this community and Baptist Missionaries arrived in 1947 and set about converting Aborigines to Christianity.
The roots of the art centre can be traced back to anthropologists Francoise Dussart and Meredith Morris as they pursued their research and recording of women’s body painting designs in the early 1980’s. They introduced new painting materials which were greeted positively by a group of about 30 women who painted objects to sell so they could buy themselves a...yes you guessed it... four wheel drive!
The men soon followed the ladies lead! In 1984, five artists, including Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Roy Jupurrurla Curtis (other artists are deceased) painted thirty doors of the Yuendumu school with 27 major Dreaming designs, negotiating the content with other Warlpiri men and women who also collectively owned the designs. Thus the first ‘real’ canvasses were not on linen but on doors, a set of works which are now world famous.
The entire series of Yuendumu Doors, referring to more than two hundred sites in Warlpiri and Anmatyerre territory, was acquired by the South Australian Museum in 1995 and then restored. Twelve of the best doors were selected for a travelling exhibition that toured Australia for three years and have been featured in many exhibitions around the globe and reproduced in many publications.
The 1st exhibition of Yuendumu paintings was held in 1985 at Sydney’s Hogarth Gallery. As the show’s press release indicated, the paintings stood out from much other desert art as they were ’less contrived, freer and less stylised than other desert paintings... the effect... more contemporary, even post modernist, in the striking application of colour’. The sales at the exhibition of a large night sky painting to the National Gallery of Australia for $3,000 (along with other smaller works) enabled the establishment of the artists’ cooperative.
Warlukurlangu means "belonging to fire" in Warlpiri, and is named after a Fire Dreaming west of Yuendumu. The name of the art centre form a reference to the vibrancy of the paintings and the profusion of colours used by these artists to depict stories of the Tjukurrpa or Dreaming of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre people.
In 1989 Warlukurlangu went international when 6 artists were invited to exhibit a large 10 x 4 metre ground painting called Yarla as part of the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, France. Since then the rise has been meteoric, with many more shows, in excess of 100, culminating this year alone with trips to India, China, Bahrain and USA - Washington DC, Texas and Virginia at the prestigious Kluge-Ruhe - as well as a packed domestic calendar of shows.
Warlukurlangu Artists was formed to support the community; this was an essential and overriding objective. Initially it had 90 artists on its books, today over 450 artists living in the communities of Yuendumu and Nyirrpi (160km southwest of Yuendumu) are involved in the production of gloriously colourful acrylic paintings and fine limited-edition prints and earning a living to sustain their traditional indigenous lives.
Fully indigenously owned and governed, one hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the art works go directly back to the artists and their community projects. The art centre is both a stronghold of traditional Warlpiri culture and an essential part of Yuendumu’s community life. A truly incredible success story in the harsh outback lands of Australia.
This exhibition will showcase works of world renowned artists such as Judy Napangardi Watson, Liddy Napanangka Walker, Shorty Jangala Robertson, Paddy Japanangka Lewis and Bessie Nakamarra Sims to name but a few, along with some new and exciting debutants on the international Aboriginal art scene.
World renowned Warlukurlangu Artists Judy Watson Napangardi, emerging star Alma Nungarrayi Granites, coming to the lion city for the second time, accompanied by Cecilia Alfonso, the art centre manager will be opening the show at ReDot Gallery on Wednesday 26th August.