Desert Dreamscapes: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings
from the
Collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan at the Holter Museum of Art - Page 9

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Spinifex Country, Simon and Estelle Hogan, 76” x 54” Ilkurlka, 2002


One of the most exciting developments of the past decade involves the genesis of painting initiatives at remote, little-known aboriginal communities such as Ilkurlka in Western Australia, home to the “Spinifex People.” Early paintings from these communities often have a refreshingly raw, unselfconscious style as artists grapple with painting their Dreamings within the rectilinear confines of a canvas for the first time. Such canvases are often highly energetic, exploding with riotous color, joyfully applied by artists who’ve discovered that there are more options available to them than a traditional earth tone palate.

The “Spinifex People” as they are known, had been pushed out of their traditional country, some of the harshest and most inhospitable in Australia by nuclear testing in the 1950’s, finally to reclaim their homelands under the Native Title Act in the 1990’s and repatriate there. Painting followed soon after as a reassertion of rights to traditional homelands.  The artist’s made paintings, which were in a sense symbolic of reclaiming the land, and renewing their ties to the land and one another.

Painting together Simon and Estelle Hogan have laid down a huge area of Spinifex country over which they both have claim through birth and relations. Several of the major Spinifex stories cross or converge within the area covered by the painting. Both artists are acutely aware of the secretive nature of the territory covered and thus document a painting such as this by naming every single rockhole shown.

The concentric circles represent these rockholes as if seen through a penumbra of heat and light. Knowledge about the location of waterholes in the desert is one of the key pieces of practical information passed on by Dreamings stories, along with assertions of who has rights to these life-sustaining water-sources.

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