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An image of To Yirrawalla by Brett Whiteley

Brett Whiteley

(Australia, England 07 Apr 1939 – 15 Jun 1992)

To Yirrawalla
Other titles:
Media categories
Painting, Collage
Materials used
oil and mixed media on board

185.3 x 166.3 x 6.3 cm board

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, black ink "... Brett Whiteley/ Aug-Sept/ 1972"
Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery 1998
Accession number
© Wendy Whiteley
Not on display
Further information

'To Yirrawalla' was a tribute to the Aboriginal elder and spiritual leader of the Gunwinggu Tribe in Arnhemland. Whiteley felt a strong affinity with Yirawala upon meeting the man and viewing his bark paintings in Sydney in 1971. The minimal atmosphere of 'To Yirrawalla' conjures up a late winter scene in a paddock somewhere in the New South Wales central west. The desiccate landscape appears to barely sustain life, apart from tiny birds, insects and exotic blue vegetation. Surprisingly the stream running through the bottom portion of the the picture harbours a life-size platypus, a favourite hyrid creature of Whiteleys, perfectly adapted to its demanding environment. As well, the artist’s deft deployment of stones, a tree branch and collage all play a part in activating or heightening visual intrigue. The only hint of modernity is a bitumen roadway negotiating its way through the top left corner of the painting. The work was a precursor to such celebrated paintings as 'River at Marulan' 1976 and 'Summer at Carcoar' 1977.

Gavin Wilson in 'Rivers + Rocks: select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley', 2001, page 14

Bibliography (7)

Lisa Anthony (Editor), HQ, Darlinghurst, Dec 2000, 112 (colour illus.), 115 (colour illus., detail). illustration for a short story

Janet Hawley, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Still life', pg. 18-24, Sydney, 02 Jul 1994, 22. titled 'Yirrawalla'

Bruce James, Whiteley with words, 'Whiteley with words', pg.2-4, Sydney, 2000, 8.

Lou Klepac, Affinities: Brett Whiteley & Lloyd Rees, 'Introduction', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 2001, 8.

Barry Pearce, Tangier to Byron Bay, 'Tangier to Byron Bay - Brett Whiteley's travels 1960-1992', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 1999, 4 (colour illus.). 7

Barry Pearce, Brett Whiteley Art & Life, 'Birds & landscapes', pg. 196-223, London, 1995, 216 (colour illus.), 235. plate no. 154

Gavin Wilson, Rivers + Rocks : select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley, 'Rivers + Rocks', pg. 9-60, New South Wales, 2001, 13 (colour illus.), 14.

Exhibition history (12)

Thirty-six looks at four sights on three themes: recent paintings, drawings and carvings, Bonython Art Gallery [Sydney], Paddington, 24 Oct 1975–15 Nov 1975

Rivers, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst, 01 Mar 1977–19 Mar 1977

Brett Whiteley 1958-1999: The Central West (1990), Orange Regional Gallery, Australia, 14 Apr 1990–13 May 1990

Brett Whiteley Art & Life (1995-1996):

Tangier to Byron Bay: Brett Whiteley's travels 1960-1992 (1999), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 06 Feb 1999–29 Aug 1999

Brett Whiteley - the genius (1999-2000), Moree Plains Gallery, Moree, 27 Nov 1999–28 Jan 2000

Whiteley with words (2000), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 08 Apr 2000–16 Jul 2000

Affinities: Brett Whiteley & Lloyd Rees (2001), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 10 Feb 2001–08 Jul 2001

Rivers + Rocks: Select works of Arthur Boyd & Brett Whiteley (2001-2002):

Iconic Whiteley (2009-2010), The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 12 Sep 2009–Aug 2010

Brett Whiteley: Nature, The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills, 04 Oct 2013–18 May 2014

Brett Whiteley: West of the Divide, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Gallery, Katoomba, 26 Sep 2014–30 Nov 2014