Saturday, November 22, 2008

New works from YUENDUMU, Northern Territory.

We've just received some new paintings in from the Aboriginal owned art centre at Yuendumu, NT.

We've bought in a range of works with prices starting at $180 - these super colourful artworks draw on traditional iconography executed in really bright colours.

Yuendumu is situated about 300km northwest of Alice Springs.
To get there you need to hire a 4wd from Alice Springs and get going early in the morning just after the sun is up and the kangaroos are off the road. Kangaroos move mostly at sun up and sun set and its really advisable to not be driving on the road at this time.
To get to Yuendumu you take the Stuart highway north and turn left onto the Tanamai Rd (Tanami Track) and drive for about 5 hours northwest.

You also need to let the art centre know that you're planning on making a visit to them as the land is Aboriginal owned and you must get permission before entering these lands. You can make a day trip to this art centre without a permit but you cannot stay overnight.

Often there will be artists painting at the art centre and you can watch them paint. Often people ask me how they can see the Aboriginal painters actually painting in their own environment in outback Australia - and in my experience to date this art centre is the most accommodating of visitors or 'day trippers' from Alice Springs wanting to really see where the art comes from.

Yuendumu is home to about 1000 people but driving into town it really doesn't look like 1000 people are living there.
In 1946 the'Native Affairs Branch'established Yuendumu as a rationing and welfare depot. Many people were moved from their traditional lands into this community. Baptist Missionaries arrived in 1947 and set about converting Aborigines to Christianity.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The 'Bush Medicine' style paintings are one of the most iconic painting styles from the Utopia Region - north east of Alice Springs.

Gloria Petyarre winner of the 1999 Wynne Prize for Landscape painting, is credited with being creator of the Bush Medicine painting style.

Many people think her paintings look like sea-grass or long grass blowing in a field.

But the painting really represents the 'Bush Medicine Plant'.

Many Aboriginal Australians have an extensive knowledge of their land, and an acute knowledge of 'bush medicine' that enables them to treat any number of ailments drawing only from the natural resources available to them such as plants, fire, charcoal and in some cases sourcery or 'Medicine Men'.

We asked Gloria what exactly is the Bush Medicine Plant that she paints - and she pointed to this tree. Through a process of elimination at the local plant nursery in Alice Springs we've pretty much concluded that this is the 'witchetty bush' or Acacia Kempeana.

Gloria told us that you can pull the leaves from the plant and brew a tea from the leaves but you only have this if you're really really sick with a chest cold. Our guess is that it probably tastes really awful or it could be a mild form of poison - anyway if you know more - let us know because we're not botanists, scientists or chemists and people always ask!

I have also been told that the oil from the leaves can be mixed with kangaroo fat and used as an antiseptic - I have no doubt there are a thousand 'bush medicine' cures out there...

The Bush Medicine Plant is a subject that Gloria paints - but there are several other painters who are also allowed to paint the bush medicine plant. The elders and family members of each community determine who is allowed to own certain stories. Not all painters can paint all stories and it can be very upsetting for Aboriginal people when these rules are not followed.

Jeannie Petyarre is one of Gloria's relatives - their fathers were 'brothers' through traditional law and Jeannie and Gloria are sisters in traditional law as they share the same Skin Name 'Petyarre' (also spelt Pitjara).

Jeannie paints a number of Dreaming stories and one of them is the Bush Medicine plant.

Typically Jeannie's paintings look like an explosion of leaves from the centre of the painting - perhaps most incredibly is that Jeannie paints her works from the outside in and FINISHES at the centre - check it out...

Jeannie's paintings have grown immensely in popularity over the years. Jeannie's paintings look stunning no matter what size from 30x30 cm all the way up to 200cm x200cm. As Jeannie has become more and more popular we have struggled to keep up with demand for this kind of work and so we have started working with another painter who also paints the Bush Medicine plant. Her name is Janet Golder Kngwarreye.
Janet is a lovely lady who lives in Alice Springs with her kids and husband Ronnie who also paints. Janet went to school in Santa Teresa and was also given an education in the ways of her traditional culture.

We find Janet interesting because she is one of the first people we've worked closely with who has both a traditional and western education. Janet is a stay at home mum and has four kids - her youngest child has started school and she finds time to paint during the day.

So we have Bush Medicine plant paintings from the highly collectable Gloria, the highly popular Jeannie and the pleasure to deal with Janet!

New works from SANTA TERESA

Today we've received some new works from SANTA TERESA , a small community of 500 people south east of Alice Springs. We should have all the new paintings online in the next day or so.

Santa Teresa was a Catholic Mission which was handed back to traditional owners in 1976. Many of the people in this community have a unique belief system which is a blend of Christianity and traditional Aboriginal Dreaming.

We found this film clip from Santa Teresa which has some terrific old footage which gives an insight into what it was like for people growing up during the Mission times.

Visitors can go and visit Santa Teresa (also called Ltyentye Apurte) but permits might be required to enter Aboriginal owned land - check with the Central Land Council for the latest info. If you want to go its best to get to Alice Springs then hire a 4wd vehicle. The 80km road is 15km sealed road and 65km unsealed (dirt) road and takes between 45min to 1.5 hours depending on weather.

The history of the Santa Teresa Community is quite interesting. The roots of this community go back to the 1920's when a bush camp was set up at Anzac Hill in Alice Springs. Anzac Hill is the main hill overlooking the township of Alice Springs. (View from Anzac Hill below).

The reason Aboriginal people were moving off their traditional lands and into Alice Springs was principally deprivation of their traditional lands - basically they had nowhere else to go.

In the 1930's the bush camp moved slightly north to Charles Creek. In 1935 Catholic Missionaries arrived at Charles Creek and established a school for Aboriginal children. The Mission that grew out of this bush camp became known as the 'Little Flour Mission' which is attributed to the practice of paying Aboriginal workers with rations of flour, sugar and tobacco which was common at the time.

Around the time of WWII more and more non-Aboriginal people arrived in Alice Springs township and with that came prejudice and further hardship for Aboriginal people.

The army took over Alice Springs around 1942 as a midpoint for transferring troops and equipment to Darwin. All non-essential civilians were evacuated. At this time curfews were put in place for Aboriginal people - they were allowed into town during the day to work but as the sun set they had to make their way back to their various camps.

In 1942, a young Aboriginal girl from the Mission contracted meningitis. The next day the army decided to load everyone from the Mission into army trucks and relocate them to an abandoned gold mine 100km east of Alice Springs. They stayed there for the next 11 or so years until poor water supply forced another move to their present location - 80km south east of Alice Springs.

The Artwork.

The art movement at Santa Teresa started with a fabric painting course in 1987. The ladies who painted participated in an exhibition in 1988 and in 1989 they received government funding to build an art centre.

The painting style from this area is very distinctive - generally comprised of symmetrical dot work designs in vivid colours - this style came instinctively to the women.

Unlike many other Aboriginal painters, the Santa Teresa painters often depict a number of concepts or stories within their paintings. They draw their inspiration from their country including flowers, the sky, stars and landforms. They also incorporate traditional symbols like the concentric circle motif which can represent a number of things including waterholes and campfires.

The ladies also paint ceramics and we have a number of these also in the gallery - please contact us by email to see our current stock. Each item is hand painted and unique. Christmas is coming....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Welcome to THE ARTERY

Since opening our gallery in 2005, we have met hundreds of terrific people and thought that a blog would be a great way for you to see what we're up to.

Finally, we've got the blog linked to our website which has been very exciting (for us at least!).

So welcome!

We're going to delve into our archives and bring out some of the terrific images we've captured over the years on our journeys and share some stories!