Gija people

East Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia c.1924 – 2002

Purnululu (Bull Creek Country) [Purnululu] 1988 Description: (Bull Creek country)
Place made: Warmun (Turkey Creek), Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, natural earth pigments and natural binder on canvas

Dimensions: 160 h x 200 w cm framed (overall) 1600 h x 2003 w x 35 d mm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1989
Accession No: NGA 89.1910
  • Jack Britten’s Aboriginal name is Warnngayirriny and he was born at Garndawarranginy, north of Alice Downs in the eastern Kimberley. As a young man he worked on several cattle stations including Bow River, Mabel Downs, Lissadell, Texas Downs, Tickelara, Hann Springs and Bungle Bungles. Working as a stockman, Britten was able to maintain his connection to his country. For many Aboriginal people the cattle industry provided an opportunity to not only visit country but also to maintain cultural responsibilities. During the ‘wet season’ the stations would close down and workers would have holidays and it was during this period that ceremonies with neighboring clan groups would occur.

    Purnululu(Bull Creek country) 1988 is an evocative depiction of Purnululu or the Bungle Bungles, a spectacular range of sandstone canyons near Turkey Creek. Britten paints this important cultural site often. It is the place where an encounter between two spirit beings took place. The artist has compressed the vast landscape of this region into the parameters of the picture frame. He uses traditional ochre pigments and crushed bloodwood resin to create a visually rich and highly textured painting. The intensity of the crushed resin provides a deep red sheen to his work. The alternating incised lines and dots replicate the striations of the rock surfaces and refer to body painting designs. The lines are incised using a technique similar to that used to etch images into the surfaces of pearl shells and boab nuts.

    Franchesca Cubillo

    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