Looking at Art - July

Violet Hammer [Nurlanyma]

<strong>Violet Hammer [Nurlanyma]</strong></br>b.c.1948, Butcher Lagoon, Bing Bong Station, north of Borroloola, NT Region: Mara Camp </br>Yanyuwa language group</br></br><i>Cowboy from the Gulf</i> 2012 </br>Screenprint, edn 8/20 </br>18.5 x 17cm [image, irreg]; 28.5 x 38cm [paper]</br>Collaborator/Printer: Colin Holt</br>Published by Waralungku Arts, Borroloola, Northern Territory</br>Gifted by Professor Andrew Reeves, Chairman of the CDU Cultural Collections Advisory Board (CCCAB) through the CDU Foundation to the CDU Art Collection, 2012 – CDU 2331</br>Image © the artist & courtesy Waralungku Arts, Borroloola, NT

A founding artist of Waralungku Arts, Violet Hammer grew up at Managoora and Borroloola. She attended school in Borroloola in 1954, relocating to Bauhinia Downs Station as a young woman after marrying her late husband Mr R. Hammer. She attended adult education classes in the 1980s, where she was first introduced to screenprinting and painting in acrylic on canvas.

An Aboriginal owned art centre established in 2003, Waralungku Arts represents approximately 40 artists comprising all the language groups of the Borroloola region, including Yanyuwa, Garrawa, Gundanji and Mara peoples. Their homelands include the township of Borroloola, situated approximately 80 kilometres inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria and 250 kilometres west of the Queensland border, as well as some 30 outstations spread over a wide hinterland. Waralungku is the place name for the Burketown crossing on the McArthur River, on the main road outside the township, which first drew European pastoralists and prospectors to the area. It is associated with the Hill Kangaroo Dreaming and an imprint of the Dreaming ancestor's feet, tail and hind quarters are located at this site. Since 2007, Waralungku artists have worked with Darwin-based painter, printmaker and sculptor Colin Holt in producing limited edition screenprints.

Predominantly monochrome – in black ink on an expansive white or cream background – the prints portray historical events, places and people associated with frontier life, contemporary subjects including droving and stock work spanning the Gulf region across the Northern Territory and Queensland borders, post-contact encounters between pastoralists, adventurers and traditional owners, and enduring Aboriginal narratives that "tell about country" – its past and present, its Ancestral Beings and the natural environment.

According to senior artist Gordon Lansden, the Waralungku arts movement dates back to his associations with Albert Namatjira in the 1950s, gathering pace during the late 1990s on Borroloola's outstations. Although the region's reputation as a frontier is not misplaced, unqualified "stereotypes of roughness and marginality" are readily unseated by existing and enduring Indigenous knowledge systems, reflected in the content and style of Waralungku artists' work. Violet Hammer has exhibited in group exhibitions since 2005 and is represented in several Australian public and private collections. One of her screenprints, acquired for the ACIKE Works on Paper Portfolio (20012-13), was pre-selected for the 27th Telstra – National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awardin 2010.

This work depicts a well-groomed horse and rider, a Gulf Country cowboy sitting high in the saddle, reminiscent of black-and-white artists' graphic depictions of American frontiersmen in magazines and Hollywood film posters, and Aboriginal artists' post-contact drawings of white settlers most often housed in archival or museum collections.

Sources: Artist's Print Certificate information © the artist & courtesy Waralungku Arts, Borroloola, NT; Alan Mayne, "Telling about the Country': Life Stories from the Waralungku art movement: http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/research/docs/pdfs2006/Mayne.pdf

Waralungku Arts: waralungku.com  

Anita Angel

Curator, Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery

27 June 2013

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