Collection Online

Rockholes and country near Kata Tjuta
2007

Medium
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Measurements
120.0 × 520.0 cm
Place/s of Execution
Amunturrngu, Northern Territory
Accession Number
2008.22
Department
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Indigenous Art, 2008
Gallery location
Not on display
About

A myriad layered dots pull the viewer into the ancestral and painterly drama of this magisterial work by Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri. His notations of waterways, flora and geological formations reveal an intuitive sense of colour harmonies, and create a complex, mosaic-like composition. Whiskey’s Country lies between Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in Central Australia, and while these rock formations are known around the globe, the artist shares its specific Pitjantjatjara origins and invites us to consider it from a different perspective.

In this work, Whiskey references the ancestral clash between the cockatoo, crow and eagle. Their actions shaped the landscape and their relationships are mirrored within it. In anticipation of laying her eggs, the cockatoo prepared some kangaroo meat. A jealous crow was watching and decided to steal some meat for himself. A ferocious fight broke out between the two birds and the distinctive parallel dotting is said to reflect the aggressive close-range claw attacks they meted out to one another, and the gullies and the creeks that this melee forged. The cockatoo was badly injured when the crow hit her with a rock, and on witnessing the fight, an eagle decided to offer assistance to the cockatoo, calling out to the crow to say she wanted to make love. When the excited crow lay in wait for the eagle, she struck at him with hot spinifex wax, scalding his genitals and shaming him. This narrative is corroborated by the landscape: the white stones surrounding this site belong to the feathers of the cockatoo, embodied by a brilliant white rock. The eagle metamorphosed into a hill that overlooks this white rock, protecting the cockatoo from one life to the next.