Rover Thomas Dreamtime story of the willy willy 1989

Rover Thomas
Kukatja; Wangkajunga
Dreamtime story of the willy willy 1989
earth pigments and natural binder on canvas
160.1 x 200.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1990
O.1-1990
© the artist's estate, reproduced courtesy of Warmun Art Centre

This painting shows the ancestral path of miowin, a willy-willy or spiralling dust storm, indicated by the red-ochre glyph unleashed on the matte, white surface of the land and rising into the sky. The storm began as a murmur, in the upper right, and kept increasing in size and velocity as it moved through Jaru Country until it reached badangu ngapa (the main waterhole), shown enclosed by the spiral. Here the willy-willy was consumed by Garagi, the Rainbow Serpent, who is associated with storms in the Kimberley region.

 

The work reveals that Thomas’s intention is to distil and reveal what lies within the order of things rather than replicate through mimesis the concrete surface or physical appearance of the natural world. He is not concerned with mirroring nature or with using his brush as a camera; rather, he reveals a deep spiritual affinity with the land and the sacred narratives it holds.

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