'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
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
© Wendy Whiteley
Shown in 12 exhibitions
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):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 16 Sep 1995–19 Nov 1995
- Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin 13 Dec 1995–28 Jan 1996
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 22 Feb 1996–08 Apr 1996
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 09 May 1996–16 Jun 1996
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 02 Jul 1996–26 Aug 1996
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 18 Sep 1996–17 Nov 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):
- The Brett Whiteley Studio, Surry Hills 20 Oct 2001–27 Jan 2002
- Orange Regional Gallery, Australia 08 Feb 2002–10 Mar 2002
- New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale 15 Mar 2002–21 Apr 2002
- Noosa Regional Gallery, Queensland 10 May 2002–09 Jun 2002
- Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville 21 Jun 2002–21 Jul 2002
- Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Art Gallery, Emu Plains 03 Aug 2002–08 Sep 2002
- Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington 25 Sep 2002–27 Oct 2002
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 01 Nov 2002–01 Dec 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
Referenced in 7 publications
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.). cat.no. 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.