Looking at Art - August

<strong>Alfonso Puautjimi</strong><br/>Born 1969, Bathurst Island</br>Dance: Dingo<br/>Skin Group: Sun<br/><br/><i>The Keeping House</i> 2010<br/>Natural ochres on Arches paper, 76 x 56cm [image & paper]<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU1990<br/>Purchased through the CDU Foundation for the CDU Art Collection, 2011<br/>Image © the artist & courtesy Ngaruwanajirri Inc

Alfonso Puautjimi

Alfonso Puautjimi is a Tiwi artist represented by Ngaruwanajirri art centre at Wurrumiyanga (formerly Nguiu) on Bathurst Island. Ngaruwanajirri was founded in 1994 as an art-focused skills development and supported employment program for Tiwi adults with special needs. Its overarching philosophy and defining spirit as an art co-operative are encapsulated in its Tiwi name, translated into English as “helping one another”.

The Ngaruwanajirri workshop is located in “The Keeping House”, a striking building with a high vaulted ceiling, designed by esteemed Sydney architect Peter Myers in the late 1970s. Myers’ design drew inspiration from the traditional Tiwi Wet Season shelter, distinguished by its arched covering of stringy bark sheeting above a simple sapling framework. Between 1985-6, ten Tiwi artists were commissioned to produce eight semi-circular painted ceiling panels in situ, their striking appearance earning the collaborative work the epithet, “the Australian Sistine Chapel” in Vogue Italia, 1987.

Today, the Ngaruwanajirri art cooperative comprises a core group of 14 artists and 12 freelance wood carvers. Alfonso Puautjimi has been a member of the collective since 1997, and is one of its most distinguished and prolific artists. His chosen media are natural ochres on Arches paper, acrylic and natural ochres on canvas, batik on silk, lino block design and watercolour paints on Canson paper. His principal subject matter is drawn from his environment and includes: tutini (funerary poles), still life compositions of carved birds, figures and faces, landscapes, modes of transportation (aeroplanes, water vessels and cars) and the built environment. The concepts of place and home were also the subject of a series of paintings executed several years ago, featuring two-storey houses first seen in Darwin, contrasting sharply in size and design with the predominantly one-storey constructions on the Tiwi Islands.

In The Keeping House, Puautjimi pays homage to the art centre that has been the focus of his life and work for 14 years. He has captured the elemental, external features of its structure with bold aplomb: its arching, barrel-shaped pitched roof, hanging eaves, steel buttress supports, one of its sliding side doors and the back door to the kitchen area. Pared down to essentials, the building’s form is blocked out in panels of yellow, white and red ochres, with bold black outlines. The artist’s name – a distinctive signature in many of his paintings – is magnified and set within the lower central panel – fanning below a doorway to the collective studio he shares with his fellow Ngaruwanajirri artists.

Alfonso Puautjimi has exhibited regularly in group exhibitions in Australia since 2002. His work is represented in the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education Art Collection, the Lam Collection – University of San Antonio, Texas, the Charles Darwin University Art Collection and many private collections in Australia and abroad.

The CDU Art Gallery will host a major retrospective exhibition of more than 190 works in a range of media by 21 Ngaruwanajirri artists this month, showing 11 August to 7 October 2011.

 

Anita Angel, Curator CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
29 July 2011

CDU Art Collection and Art Gallery


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