The Great Salt Lake Tjitjiti in Carlene West’s Paintings

Installation view of Carlene West’s work in Marking the Infinite.

Whereas Carlene West’s early work conforms closely to traditional iconography, after returning to Tjitjiti in 2009— the first time since her childhood—her style underwent a rapid transformation. Formal symbolic and narrative elements receded, giving way to more expressive painting. Depicted in swaths of white, the great salt lake Tjitjiti also found greater prominence. West’s paintings offer a metaphor for the connection between place and Indigenous identity. Anthropologist John Carty notes, “Carlene’s marks are the traces of meaningful action; of the actions that made the world, and that continue to make the world meaningful; of the artist becoming an ancestor.”

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.

How Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s Syaw Painting Preserve Lost Knowledge

Detail of Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s “Syaw (Fishnet)”

The patterns in this painting mimic the stitch and weave of the syaw, large cylindrical fishnets made from the pinbin (bush vine). With the imposition of mission life, knowledge of how to make the nets vanished. Regina Pilawuk Wilson sought to revive the lost art in 2014 when she traveled to the distant outstation of Yilan to learn from Freda Wyartja and sisters Lily and Bonnie Roy. In turn, Wilson has taught the stitch to younger generations in primary schools. Her paintings are similarly a conscious attempt to revitalize lost traditions, showing that persistence and change coexist in Ngan’gikurrungurr culture.

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.

Meet the Marking the Infinite Artists: Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

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.

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Circles, 2014, Felt tip pen and earth pigments on paper, Nine panels of 30 x 22 in. Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl © Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. Photo: Sid Hoeltzell

Born c. 1945, Miwatj, Northern Territory
Lives and works in Yirrkala, Northern Territory

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu has become one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. Hailing from a powerful Yolngu family, Nyapanyapa is the daughter of statesman and artist Mungurrawuy Yunupingu and is the younger sister of artist Gulumbu Yunupingu. Through the Yirrkala Printspace—the only full-time, Indigenousstaffed fine art print studio in the country—Yunupingu has become an acclaimed printmaker. Her bark paintings, larrakitj poles, and multimedia works are held in every major public collection in Australia. In 2016 she was featured in the Sydney Biennale, and the Bangarra Dance Theatre performed a work inspired by her life.