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Focus artists and works

Click the links to view each work in the collection, including an image when available

Otto Pareroultja (1914-1973)

The hills behind Hermannsburg c1954

Otto Pareroultja and his brothers Reuben and Edwin worked and painted at Hermannsburg Mission. Initially influenced by their countryman, Albert Namatjira, and the Melbourne watercolourist Rex Battarbee, the Pareroultja brothers developed their own distinctive styles. Their desert landscapes are less representational than Namatjira’s work, and are animated by vigorous, sinuous lines, dynamic areas of patterning and strong colours massed together. These elements are clearly evident in The hills behind Hermannsburg c1954, which explores the common Hermannsburg school motif of a white ghost gum in front of a distant mountain range.

Pareroultja was reputedly more popular than Namatjira with the Australian art establishment of the 1940s and ’50s because of his perceived ‘modernist’ tendencies and, almost as a form of contradiction, his use of what look like ‘traditional’ Aboriginal designs within his work.

Edwin Pareroultja (1918-1986)

Amulda Gorge c1947

Edwin Pareroultja was a contemporary of Albert Namatjira’s and a renowned artist in his own right. The most significant work from the Gallery’s early collection of Hermannsburg watercolours is Amulda Gorge by Pareroultlja. Acquired by the Gallery in 1947 it was the first work by an Indigenous artist to be purchased for the collection.

Edwin Pareroultja, along with his brothers, Otto and Reuben, was known for his use of brilliant colour and graphic forms resulting in an almost design-like quality to his work. His art was considered by some to be more ‘abstract’ than Albert Namatjira’s and this contributed to the trustee’s decision to acquire Pareroultja’s work before that of Namatjira.

Ivy Pareroultja (b1952)

Mt Sonder Lookout 2009

Ivy Pareroultja is the daughter of Edwin Pareroultja and one of the leaders of the current generation of watercolour artists. In recent years Ivy Pareroultja has mastered the skills inherited from her father to produce striking watercolours that are distinguished by their luminous, high-keyed colour, stylised forms and distinctive line-work.

In Mt Sonder Lookout 2009, Pareroultja uses brilliant yellows to illuminate the spinifex grasses, bushes and gum trees in the foreground, and warm purples to define the rounded hills and vegetation of the middle ground, adding clarity to the bright central Australian light. As a child Pareroultja walked from Hermannsburg to Rrutjupma (Mt Sonder) with her family to camp, and has commented, ‘It always feels like we are coming home when we come out here’. Rrutjupma is a recurring subject in Pareroultja’s work and is a site she often paints with her close companion Lenie Namatjira.

Lenie Namatjira (born 1951)

Mt Sonder Lookout 2009

Lenie Namatjira grew up at Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and was taught to paint by her father, Oscar Namatjira. For a period of about 12 months Oscar was Albert’s ‘driver’, taking his father to different painting locations and acquiring the skills to become an accomplished artist in his own right.

Lenie Namatjira’s work successfully combines her artistic heritage with her own visual language. In contrast to many of her predecessors she avoids the use of strong contrasting outlines to delineate forms and defined brushstrokes to create perspective and patterning. Namatjira’s paintings are distinguished by the use of soft fields of colour that gently merge to add depth and distance, resulting in calm, composed scenes that reflect the nostalgia of memory.

Gloria Pannka (born c1950)

Behind Ellery Creek Big Hole 2009

Gloria Pannka is the daughter of artist Claude Pannka, a contemporary of Albert Namatjira. Gloria Pannka was taught to paint by her father and her works evidence the subtle tones and fine details for which he was recognised. Her detailed paintings are gently coloured and seemingly imbued with a calmness not often associated with our harsh interior. Behind Ellery Creek Big Hole 2009 depicts the tourist destination of Ellery Creek in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Rather than focus on the waterhole favoured by tourists, Pannka explores the surrounding Western Arrernte country that is her home.

The format of this painting follows the established conventions for Hermannsburg works; however, Pannka offers a very personal interpretation of this tradition. Rugged mountains are stylised and softened to be less imposing and elegant trees add further composure to the scene, which is completed with a grand ghost gum in the foreground – a safe location from which to survey country.

Conley Ebatarinja (born 1959)

Untitled 2011 2011

Conley Ebatarinja grew up at Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and learnt to paint by watching his father Arnulf Ebatarinja. As a teenager he mixed colours for his father and soon began to produce works in the classic Hermannsburg style. He now paints through Yarranyty Artlere Artists which runs art programs in Larapinta Valley town camp on the outskirts of Mparntwe (Alice Springs).

Living away from country, Ebatarinja paints from memories of what he has seen and the stories his father told him as a child. Untitled 2011 depicts the majestic MacDonnell Ranges in fine detail and brilliant colour. In contrast, little definition is given to the features of the foreground, with plain trees dotting the landscape and the water painted in simple blues, with no attempt to capture the reflections so expertly achieved in the work of Albert Namatjira. Rather than detract from the work, this unique approach adds to the power of the image, with its flattened perspective and angular line-work used to delineate forms and space.

Billy Benn Perrurle (1943-2012)

In the bush Barrow Creek way c1996

Billy Benn Perrurle was taught to paint by his father and ‘cousin sisters’ Ally and Gladdy Kemerre – both significant artists working at Utopia, north-east of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Benn developed his distinctive style by experimenting with leftover materials while working as a gardener, woodworker and metalworker. Indeed the work In the bush Barrow Creek way c1996 still retains holes from being nailed to a workshop wall.

Benn was sustained by nostalgia for his homelands and driven to pursue his dream of painting every hill in his country. His gestural brushstrokes depict the mountain ranges of the Alyawarr and Eastern Arrernte country that belonged to his father and across which he worked as a drover in his youth. Punctuated by crevices and bluffs, and intermittent flashes of brilliant colour, his works evoke the dramatic play of light seen over vast desert panoramas.

Alison Walbungara (born 1950)

These hills at Larrapinta 2012

Alison Walbungara is one of the leading printmakers working through Yarrenyty Arltere Artists. Walbungara was born in Ntaria (Hermannsburg), but has been living in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) for most of her life. She was taught to paint by the respected watercolour artist Arnolf Ebatarinja, and this training is evident in her work.

Walbungara’s fluid depictions of country offer an alternate view of the Central Desert landscape through defined line-work and abstracted perspective. In These hills at Larrapinta 2012, Walbungara gives elegant form to the hills and vegetation surrounding her home, paring the landscape back to its most elemental details. These delicately rendered traceries differ from Walbunga’s earlier work The beautiful hills at Larrapinta 2010 with its bold lines and vivid colouration. Walbungara’s style is in stark contrast to the realism of many Hermannsburg painters and brings an idiosyncratic vision to imaging the landscape of Australia’s interior.