Our current show, Beyond Time, features paintings by some of the internationally-acclaimed artists whose work is hanging in Houston’s first major museum exhibition of Aboriginal art, Mapa Wiya [Your map’s not needed], now at The Menil Collection. Beyond Time was created in cooperation with Australia’s oldest indigenous art gallery, Coo-ee Gallery, and includes a stunning painting by internationally-acclaimed artist, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.
The Spotlight is on . . .
"LOVE STORY AT NGARLU" by Clifford Possum Tjapaljarri
The first Australian Aboriginal contemporary art “rock star,” Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1933-2002) started his artistic career while working as a stockman on cattle stations in the Central Desert. While at Glen Helen Station, he discovered that selling his finely-crafted carvings of animals paid better than mustering cattle. In the 1950s, he worked on a construction crew for the last government settlement for Aboriginal people at Papunya, and he and his extended family relocated there.
In 1971, he and other senior men agreed to a teacher’s request that they paint a traditional “Honey Ant Dreaming” story, or Tjukurrpa, on the school wall. The mural, rich with symbols representing the Honey Ant Ancestors and sacred sites near Papunya, was an immediate success both with the Aboriginal residents and government workers of the community.
Fast-forward a few years, and Clifford was painting on a regular basis, earning acclaim for his extensive knowledge of important Dreaming stories, and for his paintings with of them, with detailed background patterns, traditional and new iconography, and sophisticated and ground-breaking color combinations.
“Love Story at Ngarlu” is an important Tjukurrpa story of forbidden love, which Clifford inherited from his father. In the Dreaming, a Tjungurrayai man falls in love with a Napangardi woman. The relationship is prohibited by ancient kinship law, but despite the ban, the man seduces the woman with magic love songs, as he spins his long hair into a hairstring. The large U shape in the center of the painting represents the magician, the long rod with a football-shaped element is the spindle, the footprints symbolize the travels of the lovers. The painting is multi-layered and rich with meaning, expressed both in Aboriginal patterns and recognizable icons created in a “Western” style.
In The Menil Collection’s current exhibition, “Mapa Wiya [Your map’s not needed], you will see another version of the Love Story, also painted by Clifford Possum. In it, the artist uses broad, loose strokes of color, combined with icons including the magician’s hair spindle.
Booker-Lowe’s “Love Story at Ngarlu” is a stunning, museum-quality painting, from the celebrated collection of Canadian Peter Los, who was a close friend of the artist. The painting was featured in Vivien Johnson’s 1994 biography, The Art of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, and has hung in major exhibitions in Europe. Please contact Booker-Lowe Gallery for additional information and pricing.
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Well-known critic Robert Hughes called Australian Aboriginal art "the last great art movement of the twentieth century." Thankfully, this art movement continues to flourish in the twenty-first!
Founded in 2002, Booker-Lowe is one of a handful of American art galleries showcasing Australia's internationally-acclaimed indigenous art. The gallery offers its individual clients, interior designers and architects, and corporations and institutions quality original artworks, whether for the bedroom or the board room.
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