Kuningka bears Papunya Tula Artists catalogue number A731078, an annotated diagram and inscriptions in Peter Fannin's hand on the reverse synthetic polymer paint on composition board 79 x 61cm (31 1/8 x 24in).
PROVENANCE: Likely to have been painted at Yai Yai, the Pintupi outstation near Papunya in October 1973 Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs Private collection Sotheby's, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 9 July 2001, lot 113 Private collection
Cf. Lot 22, Kuningka, 1973, by Anatjari Tjakamarra that relates to the same subject of the ancestral native cat or quoll is also illustrated in Geoffrey Bardon and James Bardon, Papunya, A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2004, painting 430, p.455, where the work carries the title 'Kuningka' Kangaroo Rat Dreaming (Version 3). While Kuningka, 1973, features the concentric square motif, Porcupine, 1973, is composed of a series of roundels.
The subject and title of this work are ambiguous, although they do not detract from its potency as an image nor the paintings' artistic merits. The original documentation of the painting was recorded by Peter Fannin who had succeeded Geoffrey Bardon as the manager of Papunya Tula Artists. It identifies the subject as being the ancestral echidna or porcupine traveling between a cave near the present day Pintupi settlement of Walungurru (Kintore) to another in the east, as represented by the two large circles. The ceremonial associations of the work are indicated by the concentric roundels that refer to a variety of ritual designs painted onto the bodies of ceremonial participants.
According to anthropologist Professor Fred Myers who carried out extensive fieldwork with the artist, the subject of this work may relate to the Tarkurrnga narrative that takes an ancestral echidna from near Angus Hills to the east. However he suggests that it is probable that the word 'Kuningka' was incorrectly heard by Fannin as 'Echidna', as the subject of this painting is Kuningka the Native Cat who is not usually associated with Walungurru though the ancestor is said to have visited the site of Tikatika to the southeast. Kuningka is a recurring theme in Anatjari's paintings however Geoffrey Bardon describes the ancestor that bears this name as a 'kangaroo rat' or hopping mouse (Bardon and Bardon, 2004, pages 454-7). Whereas several of Anatjari's paintings of Kuningka feature concentric squares, his Kangaroo Rat Dreaming (Version 2), 1972, combines a set of squares with a series of rounded forms as in this painting.
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