Kaltiji Arts, APY Lands - Art Collector

Issue 62, October - December 2012

Sara White takes a look at Kaltjiti Arts, the latest Aboriginal art centre from the APY Lands to be turning heads.

The artists of Kaltjiti live at Fregon, a small settlement in the far north-west of South Australia in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, also known as the APY Lands. This region is viewed by many as the last frontier of traditional desert art and works from Kaltjiti Arts are distinguished by the variety, individuality and intensity of mark-making.

The sublime, subtle soft-hued paintings of Kunmanara Pompey contrast with the robust drawings of Robin Kankapankatja. But common to the work of Kaltjiti artists is a sense of urgency and confidence in their serious engagement with country across thousands of kilometres – beyond the APY Lands across the Great Victoria Desert into Western Australia and north past Uluru in the Northern Territory.

Over the past 10 years, the rapid growth of painting across the APY Lands has been astounding. New centres have been established, in settlements and also fringe outstations, and centres that began more as craft workshops – among them Ernabella and Kaltjiti – are now nurturing the latest stars of the Indigenous art world.

The first major representation of paintings from Kaltjiti was in 2011 at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Central Australian exhibition
Living Water. This year Kaltjiti Arts, the latest centre to catch the eye of galleries and private buyers, has shows in commercial galleries across Australia and overseas. There is also a shift from group community exhibitions to shows that enable viewers to become more familiar with an individual artist and to explore the personality of their life and art.

Senior artist Robin Kankapankatja was born at Walalkara, 65km south west of Fregon. It is Kankapankatja’s intimate knowledge of Walalkara country – the plants, animals, waterholes and tjukurpa – that inform his latest suite of drawings,
Nyangatja ngayuku ara irititja (This is my life from long ago), which are currently on show in Darwin at Cross Cultural Art Exchange. Kankapankatja’s deep love for his country is tangible in a diarist-like depiction of growing up in the bush and meeting a whitefella for the first time when he was in his teens. The drawing is uninhibited, fresh and deeply expressive as the 83-year-old reveals detailed knowledge of ancestral journeys and country.

Pete Volich, the studio and gallery manager at Kaltjiti Arts, records that once his work is complete Kankapankatja starts singing to the work while tapping his cane on the ground. In her book,
Painting the Song: Kaltjiti artists of the sand dune country, Diana James, the former coordinator of Kaltjiti Arts, describes the ways in which the work of Kaltjiti artists is profoundly connected with sound, colour and pattern. Critic Nicolas Rothwell recalls Kandinsky’s insistence on the connection between colour and sound. Certainly bold rhythmic colours in the paintings of leading artists such as Delma Forbes, Tjayangka (Antjala) Robin, Kathy Maringka, Iwana (Antjakitja) Ken and Kanytjupai Robin carry the same intensity and resonance.

The creation of works on paper has also stepped up – including charcoal, graphite, oil sticks, acrylic pastels and printmaking. Etchings by Kankapankatja will be on show at AP Bond in Adelaide throughout October. Recently Sydney artists Jacqueline Gothe and Michael Snape ran workshops at Kaltjiti designed to engage younger artists. Gothe has an interest in the visual communication of place and has worked extensively with Indigenous communities in Cape York.

The future of Kaltjiti Arts is exciting. Beverley Peacock’s 22 years at Kaltjiti Arts as art centre manager has provided a rare strength of continuity in community arts management and development. From 2006, extensive trips back to country have reignited in the artists a desire and urgency to paint culture and offer the outside world a picture of themselves. The appointment of Volich to assist Peacock and support the artists in their studio practice completes the picture. James writes: “Kaltjiti artists sing country, dance country and paint the song of their lands.” The Kaltjiti voice is strong, the
work sublime.

Katjilti artists will be at Cross Cultural Art Exchange in Darwin until 13 October and with AP Bond in Adelaide from 18 October to 3 November. There is also an overseas exhibition at Artkelch in Freiburg, Germany until 14 October 2012.



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