Yukultji Napangati

Shimmer

June 2020

exhibition essay

Pintupi country encompasses a grand swathe of the Gibson Desert and includes the vast salt lake Wilkinkarra. In this landscape row after row of red sand dunes roll to the horizon, the two communities of Kiwikurra and Kintore are but specks on the map and it’s hard to comprehend the scale.

My first visit to Wilkinkarra was at 30,000 ft, crossing the country from Melbourne to Broome. From this eyrie the enormity and endlessness of the space really hit home and the presence of humans in it almost unimaginable. This is Yukultji’s country and you can see and feel it in her paintings.

On first glance, the lines in her paintings could easily be interpreted as the sandhills, but Wilkinkarra sometimes fills with water and the wind can set up a swell which in the afternoon catches the light and line after line of glinting ripples set up another possibility. Lines like these are also like those that form the designs for body paint, and when the women dance long bands of parallel lines are often worked into the sand. Thus the references are layered and many.

The snaking heat waves rising from the desert floor always comes to me when I look at Yukultji’s work and brings back vivid memories of the intense dry heat, and it is this vision that is all powerful in the larger canvasses. These fields of colour, crafted from line after line of little dots, shimmer. From a distance they look like an intense all over glow and it’s only on approach that the myriad tiny marks appear and the subtleties of the overall surface are revealed. From apparent emptiness comes layer upon layer of detail.

Painting these pictures takes time and to maintain the intensity and consistency over that time is not easy. These are exquisitely crafted works, from the first layer of sinuous lines a pulse begins as the thick and thin of each line creates the thick and thin of every space between. The next dotted layer is in multiple bands and in each band each dot sequence shifts as the paint load in the brush decreases with every run.  Christopher Hodges 2020

Pintupi country encompasses a grand swathe of the Gibson Desert and includes the vast salt lake Wilkinkarra. In this landscape row after row of red sand dunes roll to the horizon, the two communities of Kiwikurra and Kintore are but specks on the map and it’s hard to comprehend the scale.

My first visit to Wilkinkarra was at 30,000 ft, crossing the country from Melbourne to Broome. From this eyrie the enormity and endlessness of the space really hit home and the presence of humans in it almost unimaginable. This is Yukultji’s country and you can see and feel it in her paintings.

On first glance, the lines in her paintings could easily be interpreted as the sandhills, but Wilkinkarra sometimes fills with water and the wind can set up a swell which in the afternoon catches the light and line after line of glinting ripples set up another possibility. Lines like these are also like those that form the designs for body paint, and when the women dance long bands of parallel lines are often worked into the sand. Thus the references are layered and many.

The snaking heat waves rising from the desert floor always comes to me when I look at Yukultji’s work and brings back vivid memories of the intense dry heat, and it is this vision that is all powerful in the larger canvasses. These fields of colour, crafted from line after line of little dots, shimmer. From a distance they look like an intense all over glow and it’s only on approach that the myriad tiny marks appear and the subtleties of the overall surface are revealed. From apparent emptiness comes layer upon layer of detail.

Painting these pictures takes time and to maintain the intensity and consistency over that time is not easy. These are exquisitely crafted works, from the first layer of sinuous lines a pulse begins as the thick and thin of each line creates the thick and thin of every space between. The next dotted layer is in multiple bands and in each band each dot sequence shifts as the paint load in the brush decreases with every run.  Christopher Hodges 2020