Australia 1938 – 2013
Kintore, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Ningura Napurrula was married to one the first painters at Papunya, the late Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, and she began to paint on canvas in 1996.
Napurrula’s distintictive painting style draws upon the tradition of drawing in the sand. When relating narratives from the Tjukurrpa, women of the desert normally sketch symbols for ancestors, places, travelling lines, and animal and human tracks in the sand, using their fingers. As the narrative unfolds and moves on to the next episode, the drawing is wiped clean and another placed over it and so on to produce a palimpsest. These sand drawings are more than mere illustrations of the narratives—they are a visual recreation of the Tjukurrpa.
When working on canvas, Napurrula paints these symbols and designs in impasto paint to create a sense of layering, so that the paint appears to be scratched away to reveal the raw background colour of the canvas. She normally favours a palette of red, white and black, but in Untitled 2006 she has added yellows and oranges with tonal variations of red and white, giving the surface of the painting a sense of movement. The work depicts the rockhole sites of Wirrulnga and Ngaminya, east of Kiwirrkura in Western Australia. Wirrulnga is a birthing site where hair-string is spun to form nyimparra (hair-string skirts) which are worn during ceremony, and form the main motifs in this painting.
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