Angelina Pwerle’s Bush Plums

Angelina Pwerle’s “Bush Plum” in Marking the Infinite

Detail of Angelina Pwerle’s “Bush Plum”

“This painting is about my father’s country and about arnwekety [bush plum]. The flowers are there, the little bush plum flowers. That bush plum is my father’s Dreaming. That bush plum comes from Ahalpere country. It has little white flowers, then after that there is the fruit. If it doesn’t rain, the plants are dry; if it rains there is an abundance of bush plums. The flower is small when they have just come out…well, after that the fruit comes. The fruits are really nice when they are ripe.” – Angelina Pwerle

Angelina Pwerle’s paintings deal with many themes, the best known being the bush plum (arnwekety). The plant’s seasonal colors dominate the ground flora of Ahalpere country, and women collect its small berries which may be eaten fresh, dried, or mixed into paste. The bush plum is an Altyerr (Dreaming) that Pwerle inherited from her father. Its story is crucial to local women’s ceremonies and intricately intertwined with the songlines of the whole country. Closely associated with the sacredness of Ahalpere country, the narrative speaks not only of physical nourishment but also spiritual sustenance. Pwerle depicts the bush plum as a shimmering constellation of dots, creating grand tapestry like canvases that suggest the profound connection between the individual and the universal.

These works are on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.

Meet the Marking the Infinite Artists: Regina Pilawuk Wilson

In this series, we introduce the nine artists behind Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia, on view at The Phillips Collection June 2–September 9, 2018.

Installation view of works by Regina Pilawuk Wilson in Marking the Infinite. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Born 1948, Daly River, Northern Territory
Lives and works in Peppimenarti, Northern Territory

In 1973, Regina Pilawuk Wilson left the Catholic mission where she had lived since childhood and, along with her husband Harold, established the Aboriginal community of Peppimenarti. A gifted fiber artist, Wilson began painting in 2002 after attending a workshop in Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory. Her largescale works immediately received acclaim at such prestigious events as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Wilson’s work is in major public collections—the British Museum, London; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, among others—and has been featured in important international exhibitions of Aboriginal art.

Lightning and the Rock

Installation view of works by Nonggirrnga Marawili in Marking the Infinite.

Nonggirrnga Marawili’s early works primarily represented the motifs of her husband’s clan, the Djapu. Recently, however, she has focused on the designs of her own Madarrpa clan. Her patterns echo sacred Madarrpa iconography, but she renders them in expressionistic, personal ways out of respect for the prohibitions of Yolngu Law, according to which only certain people can hold a proprietary claim to paint these designs. She explains: “This Yirritja painting I’m doing is coming from the heart and mind, but it’s not the sacred Madarrpa painting. It’s just an ordinary fire, not the Madarrpa fire: tongues of fire, fire burning backwards. This is just my thinking. No one told me to do this pattern. I did this on my own. When the elders see it they will let me know what they think.”

These works are on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.