Wild West – An Exploration of the Figurative in Ngaanyatjarra Art
The Ngaanyatjarra Lands are located in Western Australia, approximately 1000kms east of Kalgoorlie near the tri-state border. The twelve tiny remote communities that make up the Lands occupy an area the size of France in both the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts.
Ngaanyatjarra people refer to themselves as yarnangu (people) and have powerful ancestral ties to their country. Artists from the region are some of the most respected and celebrated desert painters, sculptures and fibre artists in Australia.
In recent years artists from the region’s Art Centres, Warakurna Artists, Papulankutja Artists, Kayili Artists, Tjarliri Arts and Tjanpi Desert Weavers have started a new and innovative painting movement using figurative elements to explore and communicate a range of contemporary and historical stories. The artists refer to this movement as history or early day paintings.
Recently a body of 45 paintings created by Warakurna Artists was acquired by the National Museum of Australia and are currently on display in a special exhibition called Warakurna – All the stories got into our minds and eyes.
These paintings combine familiar Western Desert symbols and dots with a new, more figurative style, to recreate scenes of everyday life and to tell historical and contemporary stories. Senior Curator Peter Thorley, National Museum of Australia
The use of the figure and/or figurative elements adopted by the artist’s has been a striking development in Western Desert art making and it is this theme that is explored in the Wild West exhibition at Merenda Gallery.
The paintings on display celebrate this new ‘style’. Themes explored by the artists include tjukurrpa (dreamtime), historical and contemporary stories. Expect to see works that cover a range of topics such as early days before colonial contact, early explorers, mission times, the formation of communities, mining and darker stories about massacres. These paintings are filled with subtle humour, huge personality and sometimes challenging content.