This paintingreflects the night’s phases and the sunrise over the landscape. The usual depiction of the landscape in desert paintings is in plan view, as though the viewer were looking down from above onto the land. Here, Namarari takes this way of representation to extraordinary lengths, demonstrating the Pintupi sense of perspective, where the point of view incorporates a larger cosmology – looking down from the heavens through the stars, past the rising sun and the night onto the campfires burning on the plain below. As the night fades from the left of the picture, the sun on the right casts the dawn light over the landscape. The white dots are painted stones, whilst the central roundel represents a ceremonial ground.
This work is a part of a series of paintings about the artist’s Moon Dreaming, which he produced for the 1978 film, Mick and Moon. One of the key early members of the painting movement, which commenced in the early 1970s at Papunya, west of Alice Springs, Namarari went on to paint impressive larger works on canvas in the ensuing decades and was represented in numerous Australian and international collections.
Works made at Papunya challenged public perceptions of contemporary Aboriginal art. For the first time, the rich visual languages of the desert were painted in synthetic paints on flat, portable boards and made available to the general public. Today, art from numerous communities in the Western Desert region is renowned throughout Australia and internationally.
This small work is an excellent example of early Papunya painting on boards and a precursor to larger, more recent works on canvas. It was commissioned by Geoffrey Bardon who, as a teacher at the Papunya school, was a catalyst in the painting movement in the early 1970s.
Susan Jenkins, 2002
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002