The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu) natural earth pigments and natural binder (bush gum) on canvas 100 x 118.5cm (39 3/8 x 46 5/8in).
PROVENANCE: Painted in the Warmun region, Western Australia in 1990 Private collection Sotheby's, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 26-27 July 2004, lot 31 Private collection
Cf. For similar depictions of the same site by Jack Britten see Purnululu (Bull Creek country), 1988, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds.), Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art: Collection highlights, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2010, p.93, and in Wally Caruana, Aboriginal Art, World of Art Series, London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003, p.180, pl.156; and Purnululu Country, 1989, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, in Judith Ryan and Kim Akerman (eds.), Images of Power: Aboriginal art of the Kimberley, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1993, p.51.
The Bungle Bungles, Purnululu, 1990 is a classic image of a spectacular range of sandstone canyons southeast of Turkey Creek in the eastern Kimberley. It is the site of an encounter between two ancestral spirit beings. The parallel curves of dots in the painting echo the striated surfaces of the cliff-faces of Purnululu while referring to related ceremonial body painting designs.
Britten is renowned for his use of rich ochres often mixed with dark red bloodwood resin, as in this work, which contrast with areas of thin wash to create a visually animated and tactile surface. Britten's play on positive/negative images and background/foreground adds to the painting's vibrant nature. The subjects of Britten's paintings are 'all the things made by the travelling dreaming as it created the land' and this work is a powerful example of his motivation to make art 'the spirit that [urges] me to do it.' (Frances Kofod in Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp.547-8).