• Musgrave Ranges

    Musgrave Ranges 1949

    Sidney NOLAN

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    Notes

    Musgrave Ranges 1949 is one of a series of paintings of inland Australia that Nolan completed during this period. The aerial perspectives in this series gave the outback a sense of scale that no painter had attempted before.

  • Spirit Dreaming through Napperby country

    Spirit Dreaming through Napperby country 1980

    Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri Anmatyerre; Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri Anmatyerre

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    Notes

    Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri grew up with his family in Napperby, the ancestral country of his family, but was exiled from this country when it was appropriated from the Anmatyerre people as a pastoral station. He moved to the government settlement of Papunya with his wife and children in the 1960s, and was a founding contributor of the Papunya Tula artist cooperative. He created Spirit Dreaming through Napperby Country 1980 with assistance from Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.

    This large painting on canvas was originally intended to be used in a film about the Western Desert. It shows the Death Spirit, indicated by a human skeleton, walking along a central travelling path.

    The painting is like a map showing places where Anmatyerre people lived, hunted, ate, fought and rested. Tim Leura’s life as an artist is reflected in the small replicas of his early paintings shown as windows in the work. The background dotting shows the landscape: grass, sand, earth, leaves, smoke and tracks with footprints. The presence of hunters is shown by the spear, boomerangs, woomera and shield.

  • brumby mound #5

    brumby mound #5 (2003)

    Rosemary LAING

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    Notes

    Brumby mound #5 2003 is one of a series of photographs by Rosemary Laing that explores the way European culture has often been uncomfortably imposed on an ancient land.

    Laing chooses a desert-scape that many identify as quintessentially Australian as the setting for her interventions. The location is the Wirrimanu community lands around Balgo in north-east Western Australia. Onto these traditional lands Laing has incongruously placed items of mass-produced furniture painted to mimic the surroundings.

    The words ‘brumby mound’ in her title are a reference to the introduced horses (or brumbies) that are feral and roam uncontrolled, much like the spread of furniture.

    The seductive beauty of these panoramic images shows the vast spectacle of the Australian bush and makes the disjunction of the natural and the unnatural all the more apparent.


In the twentieth century, artists including Hans Heysen, Rex Battarbee, Albert Namatjira, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams and Axel Poignant created iconic images of central Australia that contributed to an expanded vision of personal and collective identity and their connection to the Australian landscape.

  • Imaging the centre

    In the 1940s, Russell Drysdale created paintings of scorched landscapes littered with carcasses of perished livestock following the drought of 1940 in the Riverina district of New South Wales.

    After the Second World War, long-distance travel became easier. Photographers such as Axel Poignant trekked the interior, publishing their work in Walkabout and similar magazines promoting ‘outbackery’ to urban audiences.

    By 1950, Sidney Nolan had logged a vast amount of travel in central Australia, including by plane. Musgrave Ranges 1949 is one of a series of paintings of inland Australia that Nolan completed during this period. The aerial perspective allowed for sweeping and dramatic views of the outback landscape. 11

  • Desert Dreaming

    Art created by contemporary Indigenous artists, informed by deep cultural knowledge of land gathered over millennia, reveals the desert to be physically and spiritually abundant.

    Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri grew up in Napperby but was exiled from his ancestral country when it was appropriated from the Anmatyerre people as a pastoral station. He moved to the government settlement of Papunya in the 1960s and was a founding contributor of the Papunya Tula artist cooperative. Spirit Dreaming through Napperby Country 1980 is a map-like view of his ancestral lands. The painting includes a meandering central path that journeys through the artist’s life and country.

    Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri helped to paint the work, which includes symbolic representations of important sites, stories and knowledge connected to the artist’s country. The skeleton-like ‘death spirit’ that hovers at the end of the central path perhaps indicates an ancestor dissolving into the Dreaming, inseparable from the land from which he emerged. 12

  • A post-colonial view

    Brumby mound #5 2003 is one of a series of photographs by Rosemary Laing that explores how European culture has often been uncomfortably imposed on an ancient land.

    Laing chooses a desert-scape that many identify as quintessentially Australian as the setting for her interventions. The location is the Wirrimanu community lands around Balgo in north-east Western Australia. Onto these traditional lands Laing has incongruously placed items of mass-produced furniture painted to mimic the surroundings.

    The work’s title refers to the feral brumbies that roam uncontrolled, much like the spread of furniture. The seductive beauty of these panoramic images shows the vast spectacle of the Australian bush and makes the disjunction of the natural and the unnatural all the more apparent. 13

Endnotes

  • 11 Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan: Landscapes & Legends: A retrospective exhibition: 1937-1987, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p.111.

  • 12 John Kean, see 'Catch a Fire', in Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art, National Gallery of Victoria, 2011.

  • 13 Isobel Crombie, Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2010, p.10.