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Ngarralja Tommy May: Jilji and Bila-Sandhill Country


Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney is proud to present:

Ngarralja Tommy May:

Jilji and Bila-Sandhill Country in association with Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA

6 – 22 May 2021

Image front cover: Ngarralja Tommy May, Tali and Bila,, etching on metal/acrylic spray paint and acrylic, 120 x 120 cm


Jilji and Bila Acrylic paint and etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 50 x 50 cm 67/21


This is the sandhill country, jilji (Walmajarri) or Tali (Wankajunga, Kukatja) on and on they go. In between the jilji, that is called bila, flat country. The jilji can be close, or the bila might be really wide, a few hundred metres. Someone might have burnt that country before. You burn it, and it’s easier to catch a feed like lizard, and the bush turkeys fly in from everywhere to eat the exposed insects. Bush turkey, that’s good tucker! After fire, grasses grow back and the trees regenerate. We travel in this country, wurna juwal, always travelling from place to place! As you move through country, the type of trees and grasses change, and that determines what you will find, in terms of foods and medicine, or other plants we don’t use. At different times of the year, you’ll find beautiful fields of flowers too. On cool mornings you can suck out the nectar of some flowers, before the birds do. Desert oaks are best for shade, they grow together in big numbers, but you don’t find them everywhere. This is an easy story, this is not a story about law. I can tell you. Ngarralja is a Wangkajunga/Walmajarri man. He was born at Yarrnkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert. He dances and sings Kurtal, a ceremony relating to the main jila [living waterhole] in his country. He is also a renowned painter and printmaker. Last year he was the recipient of the prestigious Telstra NATSIAA overall Prize with a drawing on tin “Wirrkanja”, about his brother birth place. At the peak of his career, he returned last year for the first time in five years to Kurtal and Wirrkanja (Helena Springs) waterholes that lie in between sandhill country. These recent works on tin, canvas and plywood are Ngarralja’a reflections on that sandhill country he knew from a boy and young man.


Jilji and Bila Etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 60 x 60 cm 68/21


The tin method has been developed over a number of years with Ngarralja and other artists at Mangkaja have also tried it. "I was painting, then I was doing linocut and printmaking then I thought to try a new way of making art" The tin is prepared with a layer of spray paint and a metal implement is used to scratch it back to reveal the surface beneath. There has always been a strong tradition of carving boabs and found tin in the Kimberley since the station days pre-1968, with locals making them to gain some income with many not being paid wages. "Not long ago more recent I've been doing that. Might be five or six years ago. It's hard work. I’ve been in that Telstra now four or five times" Ngarralja has been experimenting with different implements to create variation of mark and recently tried using an electric drill. For some of the works he has also incorporated another layer of mark making with acrylic markers. Highly sort after, Ngarralja has had his tin works shown all over the world including the Outsider art fair in New York in January 2020 and a finalist in the 2020 Alice Art Prize. Highly commended in the King Wood and Malleson Art Prize in 2018 and multiply years as a finalist and overall winner in the Telstra NATSIAA in Darwin. MAGNT, Art Gallery of WA, National Gallery of Victoria and private collectors nationally and overseas have acquired this type of work. -Text Copyright Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA


Jilji and Bila Acrylic paint on metal/acrylic spray paint, 60 x 60 cm 64/21


Wirrkanja Etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 60 x 60 cm 65/21


“This is about my Country. There is a clay pan, near to Kurtal. It's also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route. My brother was born here. There's living water (Jila) at Kurtal, when it rains it fills up and makes a spring. It runs out this way, flows around the rocks and caves.”


Tali and Bila Etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 120 x 120 cm 22/21


This is the sandhill country, Tali (Wangkatjunga Language) on and on they go. You got to go over the Tali first and then there is the flat country bila in-between. The tali can be close, or the bila might be really wide, a few hundred metres. We travel in this country, wurna juwal, always travelling from place to place! As you move through country, the type of trees and grasses change, and that determines what you will find, in terms of foods and medicine, or other plants we don’t use. At different times of the year you’ll find beautiful fields of flowers too. After the big rain the yellow flowers come out, pulta pulta. It's a short bush, not for mangarri (eating).


Yangkunja Hill Acrylic paint and etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 60 x 50 cm 450/18


This is the top hill, the top side has caves there, rock holes. It's an old cliff, little kangaroos live on that cliff and in those caves. People were climbing up into those cliffs looking for those boogie men. Sometimes they find him, sometimes they can’t. That bottom half is the water, coming down those hills. In a dreamtime story they fall over the jiljis below, little short jiljis near a camping place on that side. This place is half way to Kurtal, not too far from here, across from Kaningarri, Walmajarri country, close up to here (Fitzroy Crossing). This is the Red Hill too, not the black soil. Its desert country.


Jilji and Bila Acrylic paint on gesso board, 60 x 60 cm 58/21


Jilji and Bila – After Burning Acrylic paint on gesso board, 60 x 60 cm 59/21


After the flood time and they burn country the grass grows green and the flowers bloom.

Warla – Flat Country Acrylic paint and etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 30 x 30 cm 62/21


Jilji and Bila Etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 30 x 30 cm 73/21


Jilji and Bila Etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 30 x 30 cm 61/21


Jilji and Bila - After Burning Acrylic paint and etching on metal/acrylic spray paint, 30 x 30 cm 63/21


Untitled Acrylic paint on canvas, 120 x 80 cm 18/20


Walking up and down, around, always moving, hunting, and waking up next to water. Tracking, thinking, smelling, listening, and, moving. Laying down in the shade. Singing songs in the night time, and telling stories. Tommy was born in the Great Sandy Desert at a soak called Luturr, near Kurtal.


Jumu Claypad Waterhole’s Acrylic paint on canvas, 90 x 60 cm 17/21


This is soakwater country in the Great Sandy Desert. We can walk around this country after the wet season when there is plenty of water. When it's dry you can see claypan around the water jumu and flowers grow. Pretty flowers all colours the desert come to life again.


Jilji and Bila Acrylic paint on canvas, 120 x 90 cm 34/21


This is the sandhill country, jilji, on and on they go. In between the jilji, that is called bila, flat country. The jilji can be close, or the bila might be really wide, a few hundred metres. Someone might have burnt that country before. You burn it, and its easier to catch a feed like lizard, and the bush turkeys fly in from everywhere to eat the exposed insects. Bush turkey, that’s good tucker! After fire, grasses grow back and the trees regenerate. We travel in this country, wurna juwal, always travelling from place to place! As you move through country, the type of trees and grasses change, and that determines what you will find, in terms of foods and medicine, or other plants we don’t use. At diff erent times of the year you’ll find beautiful fields of flowers too. On cool mornings you can suck out the nectar of some flowers, before the birds do. Desert oaks are best for shade, they grow together in big numbers, but you don’t find them everywhere. This is an easy story, this is not a story about law. I can tell you.


Jilji and Bila Acrylic paint on canvas. 60 x 45 cm 41/21


Ngarralja Tommy May Biography Skin: Language: Country: DOB:

Jungkurra Walmajarri/ Wankajungka Yarrnkurnja 01/06/1935

Ngarralja is a Wangkajunga/Walmajarri man. He was born at Yarrnkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert. He dances and sings Kurtal, a ceremony relating to the main jila [living waterhole] in his country. He is also a painter and printmaker. “I was big when I left my country. I was already hunting by myself. I was with my young brother and my mother. My father had passed away by this time. I know these stories and these places in my country. We are not allowed to paint that story for other people’s country. We will get killed or into trouble if we do this. We put that easy story, not a really hard story like law business. We can’t paint that either. I first saw paintings in caves. I learned a lot from people, mostly my father and grandfather. I was living all around in my country, camping all around. Wurna juwal,always moving. When I paint I think about this. My work is now like my drawing for printmaking, straight onto the tin, or sometimes wood, using a knife or pens. I work everyday, and I’ve travelled a lot with the paintings. Singapore, Houston, Washington D.C., like that.” Ngarralja is fluent in Wangkajungka, Walmajarri and English and writes Walmajarri. He is a founding member of the Karrayili Adult Education centre where he learnt to read and write his own language and English. Ngarralja is an important person for art and culture in Fitzroy Crossing. He is a former Deputy Chairman of Mangkaja Arts and former Chairman of Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC). Ngarralja was also an executive for twenty one years on the Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) Board of Directors, and was a contributing artist to the Ngurarra Canvas used in the successful native title claim. Ngarralja lives with his children at Mindi Rardi Community in Fitzroy Crossing.


SOLO EXHIBITIONS: 2017 2016 2009 2007 2007

Ngarralja Tommy May – On Tin Wurna Juwal Luka [Mud] with wife Dorothy May Lau Lau Jilji Jaa Marrtuwarra with wife Dorothy May

Raft South, Hobart, Tasmania ReDot Gallery, Singapore Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC Austialian Print Workshop, Melbourne, VIC Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC

GROUP EXHIBITIONS: 2020 2019

Outsider Art Fair NYC Creative Growth Oakland, CA.

2019

Creative Growth Artists Meeting Places: Mangkaja Arts and Creative Growth Warla- Flat Country National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award Unbranded

2019

Desert River Sea

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

2018

Museum and Art Gallery of NT

2007 2006 2005 2005 2005

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Hedland Art Award King & Wood Mallesons ATSIA Art prize National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Tanarnthi Trace Elements Scratching the Surface Gimme Shelter Masterpiece Art Fair Hedland Art Award NEW FRONTIERS Everybody’s Prints Broken Hill Art Prize City Of Hobart Prize (Printmaking) Mangkaja Arts 21 Year Anniversary Wirrinyiya ngaragngarag birra ngamoo ngamoo Couples Prints, Paper & Canvas Emerging Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Jumu & Wanirri Mangkaja Artists 60x60 Mangkaja Survey Show Senior Artists from Fitzroy Crossing More Than a Few Good Men Jilji Jaa Martuwarra [Desert Side River Side] Fremantle Print Award Impressions 2006 - Limited edition prints Surprise; Cory & Friends Too Much Good Work True Colours - Recent works from Fitzroy Crossing

2004 2004

This is Still My Country Ngurrara Canvas

2004

ON TRACK: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Western Australia

2019 2019

2018 2018 2017 2017 2017 2016 2016 2016 2015 2015 2015 2014 2014 2012

2012 2012 2012 2011 2011 2009 2009 2009 2008 2007

Outstation Gallery Darwin NT Museum and Art Gallery of NT La Trobe Art Institute Bendigo Vic

Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland NSW Parliament Sydney Museum and Art Gallery of NT Art Gallery of South Australia, SA Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland, WA IDAIA, Sydney, NSW Short St, Broome, WA JGM Art, London, UK Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland, WA Linden New Art, St Kilda, Vic Nomad Art, Darwin, NT Broken Hill, NSW Hobart, Tasmania Tandanya, Adelaide, SA

Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, Brisbane, QLD Nomad Art, Darwin, NT Better World Arts, Syndey DAAF, Darwin Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC Randell Lane Fine Art, WA Short Street Gallery, Broome, WA Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, Brisbane, QLD Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC Fremantle Arts Centre, WA Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne, VIC Red Dot Gallery, Singapore Raft Artspace, Darwin, NT Queensland College of Art Gallery, Griffith University, QLD Artplace, Perth, WA Perth Concert Hall, Perth International Arts Festival, WA Berndt Museum of Anthropology University of Western Australia


2004/05 2003 2003 2002 2002 2002 2001 2001 2001 2001 2001 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 1999 1999 1998 1997 1996 1996 1996 1996 1995 1995 1995 1994 1993 1993 1993 1993 1992 1991

Colour Power: Aboriginal Art Post 1984 Jila, Jumu, Jiwari & Wirrkuja Murrkunkura Ngarrangkarnijangka Ngurrara [Three Men’s Countries] Native Title Business Contemporary Indigenous Art The 16th Asian International Art Exhibition Group Show Ngurrara Canvas Mangkaja Arts Ten Years On, Mangkaja’s 10 year Anniversary Show 18th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Impressions! An exhibition of prints Group Show Fremantle Print Award : People in a Landscape: Contemporary Australian Prints Proof Positive Noumea-Pacifique 2000 Cutting Comments: Contemporary Lino Cut Prints 1995-98 Ngurrara Story Boards: Ceramic tiles from the Kimberley Group Show Heritage Commission Art Award Fremantle Print Award 13th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Heritage Commission Art Award Mangkaja Paper Works 12th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Fremantle Print Award Prints from the APW Collection Survey show of recent works from the APW archive Ngajakura Ngurrara Minyarti [This is My Country] Images of Power 11th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Mangkaja Women Images of Power: Aboriginal Art from the Kimberley Group Show Karrayili

National Gallery of Victoria Cullity Gallery, University of Western Australia Raft Artspace, Darwin, NT National Travelling Exhibition Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne, VIC National Gallery of Australia, ACT Tandanya, Adelaide, SA Museum and Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin, NT Coomalie Culture Centre/Batchelor, NT Australian Print Workshop Gallery, Melbourne, VIC Fremantle Art Centre, WA Cultural Centre of the Phlippines, Manila Gold Treasury Museum, Melbourne, VIC Biennale D’Art Contemporain de Noumea Silk Cut Award travelling exhibition Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA Fremantle Art Centre, WA Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London Old Parliament House, Canberra, ACT Fremantle Art Centre, WA Museum and Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin, NT Old Parliament House, Canberra, ACT Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA National Tour Fremantle Art Centre, WA Australian Print Workshop Festival of Perth Exhibition, WA Artplace Gallery, Perth, WA National Gallery of Victoria National Tour Fremantle Art Centre, WA National Gallery Victoria Hogarth Gallery, Sydney, NSW Tandanya, National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA

AWARDS: Winner Telstra 2020 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Highly Commended King & Wood Mallesons ATSIA Art Prize. Finalist NATSIAA – General Painting 2018 Finalist Alice Prize 2018 Finalist Port Hedland Art Award 2017 Finalist NATSIAA – General Painting 2017 Finalist Bunbury Art Prize 2017 Finalist NATSIAA – General Painting 2016 Port Hedland Art Award – Best work in a medium other than painting, 2015 Regional Arts Australia Volunteer Awards 2010 - Sustained Contribution


POSITIONS HELD: Ongoing – Senior Advisor of Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency 2007-2009: Men’s Chairperson: Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC) This position required Ngarralja Tommy May to: Represent KALACC to assist and promote the ceremonies, songs and dances of the Kimberley people to encourage and strengthen tje social, cultural and legal values and ensure the traditions are given deserved recognition in Australian society 2009: Representative of KALACC on the National Heritage Board for the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to: Sit on the Board as a special advisor to the KLC on Heritage matters in the Kimberley. 1987-2008: Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) Positions held: Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Ordinary Director, Stand-In Director 2006-09: Cultural Liaison Officer Canning Stock Route Project 2005: KALACC representative with Wayne Bergmann Met the King and Queen of Sweden in Perth and dined with them to discuss the importance of repatriation. 1998: KALACC representative Visited Parliament House in Canberra with Joe Brown Member of the Indigenous Reference Group on Intellectual Property This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to: Travel to workshops to advise and develop policy on Indigenous copyright issues Represent the views of local Aboriginal people at conferences in relation to Indigenous copyright issues Hold meetings locally to let people know about the issues discussed at the reference group meetings Founder of Mangkaja Arts and Deputy Chairman This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to: Act on behalf of the Chairman in his absence Provide leadership to the executive Provide direction to the manager

PUBLIC ART: 2012: Fitzroy Crossing Police Station 2010: Fitzroy Valley High School 2008: Fitzroy Valley Education Centre – Panels Project 2008: Fitzroy Crossing Hospital - paintings on canvas, foyer floor design 2010: Fitzroy Crossing Swimming Pool 2012: Fitzroy Crossing Police Station – Glass Panels


COLLECTIONS: Kluge Ruhe Museum of Aboriginal Art – Charlottesville USA Art of Western Australia, Perth Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin National Museum of Australia National Gallery of Victoria Curtin University Collection, Perth Queensland State Art Gallery Berndt Museum of Anthropology Australian Print Workshop Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide Carleton College Art Collection, Northfield Minnesota Kennesaw State University Little Creatures Collection Fitzroy Crossing High School Fitzroy Crossing Hospital

PUBLICATIONS/FILMS: 2015 2009 2007 2007 2006 2005 2004 2004 2003

2003 2003 2002 2002 2002 2000 2000 1996 1993

Feature Film: Putuparri and the Rainmakers. FORM and the National Museum of Australia Canning Stock Route Project: Ngurra Kuju Walyja [One Country One People] FORM and the National Museum of Australia The Canning Stock Route Project Art Gallery NSW One Sun One Moon, Aboriginal Art in Australia Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC) NEW LEGEND: A Story of Law and Culture and the Fight for Self-Determination in the Kimberley Exhibition Catalogue: Red Dot Gallery, Singapore Surprise; Cory and Friends National Gallery of Victoria Colour Power: Aboriginal art post 1984 University of Western Australia / Berndt Museum of Anthropology ON TRACK: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Western Australia Exhibition Catalogue: Cullity Gallery UWA Perth / Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency Martuwarra and Jila [River and Desert] Australian Art Collector. Review / Maurice O’Riordan New Yorker Magazine July 28, 2003 The Painted Desert: The Fate of an Aboriginal Masterpiece Joan Winter. Gurang Land Council. Regional Galleries Assn. QLD Native Title Business: Contemporary Indigenous Art Exhibition Catalogue Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art / Marrawarra and Jila entry / Ngurrara Canvas 1 entry Video Documentary / ABC Television. Kurtal; Snake Spirit Oxford University Press & ANU Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture / Ngurrara Entry IATSIS Canberra Karrayili: The History of Karrayili Adult Education Centre Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre Publication Yirra: Land Law and Language, Strong and Alive National Gallery of Victoria Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley


Ngarralja Tommy May: Jilji and Bila-Sandhill Country

6 – 22 May 2021

Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney in association with Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA

All images and text copyright the Artist and Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA. Courtesy of the artist and Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA

Aboriginal & Pacific Art 1/24 Wellington Street Waterloo NSW 2017 Australia Ph: +61 2 9699 2211 info@aboriginalpacificart.com.au www.aboriginalpacificart.com.au

Profile for aboriginal & pacific art gallery

Ngarralja Tommy May | Jilji and Bila-Sandhill Country  

Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney in association with Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA. Exhibition dates: 6 - 22 May 2021

Ngarralja Tommy May | Jilji and Bila-Sandhill Country  

Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney in association with Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing, WA. Exhibition dates: 6 - 22 May 2021

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