Australia 1924 – 2000
Healing story at Nyilla
Balgo, Western Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Wimmitji was born at Kutakuta and for the first few decades of his life travelled the desert lands of the Wangkajunga and Kukatja people between the present-day communities of Balgo and Kiwirrkura. When he finally settled at Balgo Mission in 1959, Wimmitji was the last of his family to leave their desert home. In later life he exuberantly catalogued this country over a brief but influential painting career, and Healing story at Nyirla 1989 encompasses the vitality of his artistic legacy.
Nyirla is a site abounding in story, where multiple Dreamings intersect with the artist’s personal history. Wimmitji lived here, his father died here. Nyirla is also an important site in the Luurn (Kingfisher) Dreaming, a narrative that connects the artist’s country to Balgo where this work was painted. In this painting Wimmitji focuses on the travels of two men (Wati Kutjarra) and the stones, depicted as two yellow ovals, associated with their maparn (healing and sorcery powers). The two men’s actions and journeys emerge around the canvas in elliptical sequence, their creative acts embodied, incandescent, in Wimmitji’s own dotted forms.
The painting is balanced by the lyrical interplay of these shapes. The artist creates his own boundaries: sand dunes mark opposite corners of the canvas, while an arc of connected rockholes, rendered as roundels, edges the bottom right. Illuminated within this frame, circles and lines connect in familiar vignettes, only to be disrupted by other forms, other events and an irrepressible sense of story, as if the painting were a song in which all the verses are sung at once.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010