We continue our series on the work of the late Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori currently showing at the Queensland Art Gallery until 28 August 2016.
The exhibition includes the artist’s early paintings, her large collaborative works with other Kaiadilt women, and her almost monochromatic recent paintings and works on paper. Sally Gabori’s depictions of her homeland are abstract in nature, but retain representational elements which map traditional country and cultural identity in monumental paintings.
‘This is the big river at Thundi on Bentinck Island. This is where my father was born.’ Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori
Thundi (or Thunduyi) is her father’s Country, adjacent to a river near the island’s northern tip, which runs parallel to a ridge of tall sandhills that skirt its north-eastern coast. A large saltpan marks the wet season extent of the river, while its dry season form is flanked by mangroves. The river empties out onto a large sand and mud flat to the north, which reveal large sandbars at low tide.
Many of Sally’s early paintings featured this river area, an important fishing place. Colourful flashes of paint indicate her favourite fish species, the bluefish. Later paintings of Thundi were generally much more austere in tone, often utilising only two colours to create fields of intense tonal and emotional intensity.
Her stark black-and-white painting, Thundi 2011, evokes the sandflats and sandbars off Thundi’s coast, pictured as if glistening in the light of a full moon. Sally overpainted other works in white, evoking sandflat ripple patterns, frothing water at the river’s mouth, small lapping waves, storms and cyclones approaching from the northern Gulf, or the complete inundation of the area during extreme weather.
Many of Sally’s Thundi paintings connect important sites along the north-eastern side of Bentinck Island, including Makarrki, her brother’s country at the head of the large river at the centre of the north shore, and Rukuthi, one of her family’s main living sites at Oak Tree Point at the island’s north-eastern tip.
This work pictures Thundi, the country surrounding a river near the north-eastern tip of Bentinck Island, which was the country of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s father, Thunduyingathi Bijarrb. The collector of this work travelled to Mornington Island to meet the artist and asked about the painting. Gabori noted that the large circle was an important fishing area at the mouth of the river. When asked about the yellow marks she replied that they were her favourite fish, the snapper. She then found a paintbrush and added more yellow marks to indicate the abundance of these fish at Thundi and the importance of the area as a key fishing ground for Kaiadilt people.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, Australia c.1924–2015 / My Father’s Country 2006 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Harding Family Collection / © Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori. Licensed by Viscopy
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of all
Only until 28 August 2016 | QAG | Free
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