Above: Mick Namarari Tjapaljarri, Tjunginpa (Small Mouse Dreaming) at the Site of Tjunginpa, 1997, Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 183 x 153cm.
Recently I have felt the need to have a creative outlet which allows me to talk about/dicuss/delve into art other creative meadiums outside of an academic discourse. I am hoping for this space to change directions a little, becoming a place where I can express my thoughts and opinions about artworks and the way they sit in a various frameworks of ideas, periods, and cultural contexts. As a person who is undertaking post graduate studies in art history (hopefully by the end of 2013 I will have a double Masters degree- Yay!) I hope that I can use these skills in a less formal manner to talk about what I am finding interesting!
I thought I would start of this little experiment with an artwork by Australian Indigenous artist Mick Namararu Tjapaltjarii (yes, it’s a mouthful to say out loud!). Namarari is an Aboriginal man who comes from the Australian Western Desert. This landscape is a harsh and formidable environment, which only those with a great intimacy with the land and its hidden native treasures are able to survive this country. This sacred knowledge is passed down from generation to genertion in the form of story and song; these stories are reffered to as dreamtime stories, dreamings, or tjukurpa in Aboriginal language, and they tell tales about finding food, various animals, and thee land in general. Aboriginal people believe all these things are connected through their ancestors who created the land many thousands of years ago.
In a contemporary context, this traditional of passing on knowledge still occurs. As a man of the Tjapaljarri kinship, Namarari is custodian of the ceremonies and mythology associated with the Tjunginpa (mouse) dreaming. By using a reduction of narrative elements Namarari has captured the mood and essence of country. The many dots seem to represent the microscopic life of the desert and illustrate the richness amongst the epic expanses of sand. This life and movement symbolises ‘the footprints of the mouse and also kampurarrpa (bush food) and flowers, for which they foraged in the area.’Through using a purely abstract mode of representation, Namarari has embedded the stories of his dreaming within the work.
By controlling the density of the dots, Namarari has created various tones of depth and shading, comprising a large component of the composition. Deep caverns seem to recede into the canvas at its darkest points, and the lighter yellow areas rise as though the painting captures the geographical features of the country from an aerial perspective. A minimalist palette of red, orange, yellow and black has been used to connote the dry warmth of the Western Desert. The various tones also give a wonderful sense of rhythm to the image, capturing the shifting air and light of the desert, representing the subtle contours of the Tjunginpa hill site north-west of the Kintore community; the geographical area this painting represents.
Personally, I think this painting is a beautiful example of just how contemporary or modern an Aboriginal artwork can be within a Western art discourse whilst still maintaining a sense of authenticity and tradition which is true to cultural roots. Also, it is just so darn beautiful, it’s almost hypnotic!