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WHITFORD F I N E A R T 6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 FA X . + 4 4 ( 0 ) 2 0 7 9 3 0 5 5 7 7 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m


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WANGKARTU DREAMING: HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI & LUCY YUKENBARRI

22nd April – 22nd May 2009

All works are for sale

WHITFORD F I N E A R T

6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LONDON SW1Y 6BN TEL. +44 (0)20 7930 9332 EMAIL info@whitfordfineart.com www.whitfordfineart.com


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Fig. 1: Helicopter Tjungurrayi, painting in Balgo, the community where he resides, located on the Northern edge of the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts`

Front cover: Wangkartu 01, 2003 (cat. no. 12) Back cover : Balgo Pound, a huge natural expanse, originally an inland sea and home country to Helicopter Tjungurrayi and Lucy Yukenbarri


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INTRODUCTION

The Western Desert contemporary art movement is based on the narratives of Tjukurrpa or what is more widely known as the Dreaming or Dreamtime. A better translation might be the Law, for these narratives express and regulate the Aboriginal worldview. On one level they explain how the world is the way it is. The y are repositories of knowledge about animals, plants, f ood, medicine and history. Their significance is practical rather than mystical, such as providing topographical descriptions that enabl e one t o find wat er or tr avel across the desert. On another l evel the narratives show how life should be lived today so that the laws of nature laid down in the ancestral past are not violat ed. The idea of a deep c

ontinuity between the pas t and the pr esent is a

fundamental principle of the Dreaming. It means that contemporary events, no matter how new and unexpected, must be interpreted in light of the Dreaming. The Dreaming narratives exist as song cy cles. These cy cles are sung and danc ed during ceremonies. Western Desert c ontemporary art is lar gely based on body and gr ound designs painted during these ceremonies, and so are associated with specific Dreaming narratives. The stories told in these narratives concern the activities and journeys of ancestors across the country in which the geogr aphical features, flora and f auna are as int egral to the s tory as the actual ancestor. Indeed, each is a manifestation of the other, as are living persons and things today. Thus a valley or river or road or the storm last night may be the manifestation of the Rainbow Serpent, made during its journey across the landscape. One of the tasks of ceremonial leaders—who usually are also artists—is to explain the new in light of the past. This will often involve the inventions of new Dreaming narratives. These are usually ‘given’ to ceremonial leaders in dreams. This is why Western Desert painting is contemporary art. Its Dreaming narratives are also about contemporary events, just as its artists are contemporary manifestations of specific ancestors. Helicopter’s story of becoming a painter is bound up in the Dreaming and its uses to explain an unusual contemporary event. When he was ill as a 10-y ear old boy, a helicopter rescued him, taking him away t o the Balgo mission, an isolated outpost at the edge of the Gr eat Australian Western Desert. This has been remembered in several narratives told across the desert of a y oung man running in f ear for his


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life, being picked up by an e vil Mamu, a large flying beast, taking him in its claws t o carry him away from his country. It was r emembered this way bec ause it was similar t o the much older Dreaming story in which the anc estral red-backed Kingfisher had, in Creation time, flown south from Balgo guiding the marwantu (novices) and rescuing some Kukatja people by placing them on his back. Not surprising then, this incr edulous helicopter story named him. It also gav e him a new perspective on his country that resonates in his repeated use of parallel lines. Being taken away on the wings of Mamu had shown him his land fr om above. Looking down in f ear from the helicopter, a vision was sear ed into his memory of wav e after wave of par allel sand dunes, scarified by wind into the ancient seabed itself. Helicopter’s life, his paintings and his c areer as an artis t cannot be full y understood without reference to it – just as Joseph Beuys’ rescue by the nomadic Tartars after a near fatal plane crash shaped his future as an artis t. Because Helicopter’s experience was interpreted in terms of a significant Dreaming story, he gained a special s tanding across other desert communities. This was instrumental to his vocation as a Maparn or shaman, a healer, a mediator between worlds. If Beuys aspired to be a shaman and modeled his art practice on it, Helicopter was one before he became a painter. Helicopter’s paintings c an be appr eciated simply on a f ormal level as mesmerizing aes thetic abstractions, however, knowledge of his s tatus as a shaman and his brush with Mamu, offers deeper insight into his work. Being a tr aditional healer, he sees into a person’s body to find the true supernatural cause of an illness. He ‘opens membranes, lengthening and realigning things into position, straight like a spear to unblock the spirit’. In a similar fashion, Helicopter brings his country to life in his paintings. In his paintings Helic opter reveals and aligns the bones of his country, searching for a pulse of ener gy through the r adiance of c olour vibrations that might unblock the spirit. Like many other Western Desert painters, Helicopter developed a highly individualistic and easily recognizable style. Though Helicopter was in Balgo, ther e is no doubt that he knew about the Pintupi painters at Papunya who pioneered the Desert painting mo vement in the 1970s. Many Aborigines at the Balgo mis sion were of Pintupi desc ent and their r elatives, including painters,


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would come to visit. Helic opter must have met the l eading artists Uta Uta Tjangalga, Timmy Payunka Tjapangati and Dinny Nolan, who all spent time in Balgo. By the mid-1980s a dis tinctive school of Balgo art had been es tablished. Unlike Papunya, the Balgo paint ers were known for their wild syncr etism, colourful palette and bold s tylistic diversity. There were also f amous painting couples such as the influential Wimitji Tjapanardi and Eubena Namitjin. In the mid 1960s Wimitji’s daughter by a previous marriage, Lucy Yukenbari, married Helicopter. Lucy was a respected senior custodian in her own right, with a vast knowledge of the waterholes in Wangkartu country in the Great Sandy Desert, where Helicopter was born. Together Helicopter and Lucy would become the best-known painting couple of the Balgo community. Soon after Lucy started painting in the late 1980s, Helicopter began helping her complete her canvasses. A quietly creative artist, she soon developed her own unique style of converging her dotting into thick lines of pigment and single fields of colour across the canvas. Her iconic use of large black circles to represent waterholes and soakwat ers together with the dis tinctive addition of dark gr een and blue, gave her work an individual style, unique to desert Aboriginal art. Helicopter produced his fir st solo canvas in 1994. Whil e still sharing his wif e’s palette, he immediately set about forging his own style. Their canvasses reflect their different personalities: her paintings c ontain a s tately organic abundance, his hold a c ourteous distance in the patternisation, classic rather than effusive, minimal rather than expressionist. His canvasses are like a macroscopic tapestry of country, in which watering holes and desert dunes have been made the very grammar of Wangkartu Dreaming. Whereas Lucy’s paintings are bold and dr amatic, in keeping with the Balgo s tyle, Helicopter’s mature work differs from the first generation of Balgo artists in an early restraint, lacking in overt drama, narrative or cultural specificity. Helicopter and Lucy painted side by side until her death in 2003. Their work has been e xhibited in Canada, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States and their stature as artists is cemented and market value reflects an accomplished maturity. Together Helicopter and Lucy hav e six gr own-up children and a sc ore of gr andchildren. Their daught er Christine Yukenbarri is also an acclaimed artist. Erica Izett, former Art Coordinator, Warlayiriti Artists, Balgo, Western Australia


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Fig. 2: Wunda Ceremonial Warfare Shield, Wangkartu, Great Sandy Desert, carved and painted wood, 67 cm long, c.1950


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Minyuurpa 1996 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 80 cm


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Fig. 3: The Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, where Helicopter has painted


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 10 2008 Acrylic on canvas 149 x 74 cm


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Pikarti Soak 1998 Acrylic on canvas 35 x 45.5 cm


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 02 2007 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 60 cm


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Fig. 4: Sunset over The Gibson Desert, Western Australia, home to the Pintupi people, who pioneered the Desert painting movement in the 1970s


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LUCY YUKENBARRI (c.1934 - 2003) Marpa 01 2002 Acrylic on canvas 180 x 120 cm


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 05 2008 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 75 cm


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 06 2006 Acrylic on canvas 180 x 120 cm


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 04 2007 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 80 cm


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Fig. 5: Helicopter Tjungurrayi in Balgo


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 07 2007 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 75 cm


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10. LUCY YUKENBARRI (c.1934 - 2003) A Soakage in Sandhill Country 1997 Acrylic on canvas 178 x 119 cm


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11. LUCY YUKENBARRI (c.1934 - 2003) Gathering Seeds for Damper 1998 Acrylic on canvas 36 x 46 cm


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12. HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 01 2003 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 80 cm


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Fig. 6: The Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, birth country of Helicopter Tjungurrayi


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13. HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 11 2008 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 74 cm


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14. HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 09 2008 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 79 cm


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15. LUCY YUKENBARRI (c.1934 - 2003) Marpa 02 2000 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 80 cm


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Fig. 7: Helicopter Tjungurrayi, painting in Balgo Pound, a natural amphitheatre surrounded by outside walls of hollowed-out mountain in Western Australia


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16. HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 03 2003 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 40 cm


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17. HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) Wangkartu 08 2008 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 75 cm


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WORKS HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI 1

MINYUURPA

2

WANGKARTU 10

3

PIKARTI SOAK

4

WANGKARTU 02

6

WANGKARTU 05

7

WANGKARTU 06

8

WANGKARTU 04

9

WANGKARTU 07

12

WANGKARTU 01

13

WANGKARTU 11

14

WANGKARTU 09

16

WANGKARTU 03

17

WANGKARTU 08

LUCY YUKENBARRI 5

MARPA 01

10

A SOAKAGE IN SANDHILL COUNTRY

11

GATHERING SEEDS FOR DAMPER

15

MARPA 02

All paintings are documented and numbered in the archives of the Warlayiriti Art Center, Balgo


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LUCY YUKENBARRI (c.1934 – 2003) SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2003 Always Together Painting, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 1999 Tjurrnu: Living Water, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2002 19th NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 2002 Balgo, Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth 2001 31st Alice Prize 2001 & Tammy Kingsley Memorial Award, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs 2001 18th NATI Art Award , Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 2001 31st Alice Price 2001 , Araluen Centre, Alice Springs 2000 Outlandish Dreams II, John Ruskin House, UK in association with Arts Network International 2000 17th National ATSI Art Awards , Museum Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 2000 Fifth National Indigenous Heritage Art Award & Art of Place, Old Parliament House, Canberra 1999 Aboriginal Art, IHK, Würzburg, Germany 1999 Dreaming in Colour: Australian Aboriginal Art from Balgo, University of Virginia, USA 1999 16th National ATSI Art Awards , Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1999 East Kimberley Art Awards , Kununurra Arts Council, Kununurra 1999 30th Alice Prize, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs 1998 Culture Store, Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands 1998 Dreamings, Spazio Pitti Arte, Florence, Italy 1998 The Laverty Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 1998 Dreamings, Vlaams-Europees Conferentiecentrum, Brussels, Belgium 1997 Daughters of the Dreaming: Sisters Together Strong, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 1997 Dreamings, Arnhem, The Netherlands 1997 Goteborgs Konstforening, Goteborg, Sweden 1997 Innenseite: Projektgruppe Stoffwechsel, Kassel & Göttingen, Germany

1995 Australia Now: Contemporary Aboriginal Art , Groninger Museum, The Netherlands 1995 Place and Perception, Parliament House Art Collection, Parliament House, Canberra 1994 Wirrimanu: Australian Aboriginal Art from Balgo Hills WA, Canadian Book Launch, Derek Simpkins Gallery of Tribal Art, Vancouver, BC, Canada 1994 11th National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition , Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1994 Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art , National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 1993 Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley , National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 1989 Sixth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition , Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin COLLECTIONS National Gallery of Australia National Gallery of Victoria Art Gallery of New South Wales ArtBank, Sydney Berndt Museum of Anthropology University of Queensland Campbelltown City Art Gallery The Holmes à Court Collection Laverty Collection Kluge Ruhe Collection, USA Parliament House Art Collection Alice Springs Art Foundation, Araluen Centre Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands Ken Thompson and Pierre Marecaux Collection AWARDS 1999 Waringarri Arts Award, East Kimberley Art Awards, Kununurra Arts Council 2000 Highly Commended, 31st Alice Prize , Araluen Centre, Alice Springs


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HELICOPTER TJUNGURRAYI (b.1947) SOLO AND FAMILY EXHIBITIONS 2006 Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Christine Yukenbarri, Imelda (Guguman) Yukenbarri, Carmel Yukenbarri , Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 2005 Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Christine Yukenbarri, Carmel Yukenbarri, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 2004 Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Alcaston Gallery at Depot Gallery, Sydney 2003 Always Together Painting, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne 1999 Tjurrnu: Living Water, Alcaston Gallery , Melbourne SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2007 Valid Editions, They Might be Giants , La Trobe University Art Museum, Bundoora Homestead Art Center. 2007 My Country: Abstract interpretations of Australian Landscape, La Trobe University traveling exhibition Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manilla University, Philipines. 2006 Valid Editions, Valid Editions, prints, Bundoora Hometead Art Center 2006 Desert Mob, Aruluen Art Center , Alice Springs 2004 29th Annual Shell Fremantle Print Award , Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle 2003 Desert Mob, Araluen Centre for Arts, Alice Springs 2002 19th NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 2001 Balgo Works, Staedtische Gallery, Wolsfburg, Germany 2001 Spirituality and Australian Aboriginal Art , Alcaston Gallery, Madrid, Spain 2001 Yvonnou Balgo Exhibition, AMG Gallery, Paris 2000 Peintures des Aborigenes d’Australie , Palais des Congres et des Expositions, Paris, France 1999 Aboriginal Art, IHK, Würzburg, Germany 1999 Dreaming in Colour: Australian Aboriginal Art from Balgo, University of Virginia, USA 1999 16th National ATSI Art Awards , Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

1998 Propositions Australiennes, Arts d’Australie Stéphane Jacob, Paris 1998 Culture Store, Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands 1998 Dreamings, Spazio Pitti Arte, Florence, Italy 1998 Dreamings, Vlaams-Europees Conferentiecentrum, Brussels, Belgium 1997 Dreamings, Arnhem, The Netherlands 1997 Innenseite: Projektgruppe Stoffwechsel, Kassel & Göttingen, Germany 1996 Balgo Hills: Art of the Place , Derek Simpkins Gallery of Tribal Art, Vancouver, BC, Canada COLLECTIONS National Gallery of Australia Art Gallery of New South Wales National Gallery of Victoria Kluge Ruhe Collection, USA Gantner Myer Collection Laverty Collection Edith Cowan University Harland Collection Revue du Louvre, Paris Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands Ken Thompson and Pierre Marecaux Collection AWARDS 1999 Special Commendation, East Kimberley Art Awards, Kununurra Arts Council, Kununurra


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With thanks to Helicopter Tjungurrayi and the staff at the Warlayiriti Art Center in Balgo: Sally Clifford, Director, Annette Cock, Manager, David Mudgedell, Trainee Director and Gareth Nagomarra, Trainee Manager. In keeping with Aboriginal beliefs and at the r equest of Helicopter and his family, photographs of the deceased Lucy Yukenbarri are not published in this catalogue.

All paintings © Warlayiriti Artists Images Figs. 1, 5, 7 © Warlayiriti Artists Photographs Figs. 1, 3-6 by Tim Acker Photographs: Figs. 7 and back cover by David Mudgedell

© Whitford Fine Art Catalogue edited by An Jo Fermon Produced by Artmedia Press Ltd • London


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WHITFORD F I N E A R T 6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LO N D O N S W 1 Y 6 B N TEL.+44(0)20 7930 9332 FA X . + 4 4 ( 0 ) 2 0 7 9 3 0 5 5 7 7 info@whitfordfineart.com w w w. w h i t f o r d f i n e a r t . c o m


Wangkartu Dreaming: Helicopter Tjungurray & Lucy Yukenbarri