Water Dreaming bears artist's name 'Johnny W' and area 'Papunya' in pencil on the reverse together with a typed label prepared by Geoffrey Bardon that reads in part: 'Water Dreaming - Painted by Johnny W. Jabinula [sic] - Counsellor, member of the Pintubi Tribe'. synthetic polymer paint on composition board 46 x 35.5cm
PROVENANCE: Painted at Papunya in the late months of 1971 and given as payment to the original vendor for his professional services as a script writer on Geoffrey Bardon's first film on the Yuendumu Sports Carnival, produced in 1971-72 Sotheby's, Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 28 May 1999, lot 27 Private collection
Water Dreaming, 1971, is an early version of a subject that was to become a recurring theme in Warangkula's body of work. Painted within the first six months of the commencement of the revolutionary painting movement at Papunya, this rendition sets out the main features that Warangkula would elaborate on in later works, such as the dazzle of meandering lines that capture the forms of lightning, and the fields of dotting that may represent rain, hail or bush foods. Above all, Warangkula sought to express the ancestral power of these Rain or Water Dreaming sites, chief among which are Kalipinypa and Tjikari that lie some 300 kilometers west of Papunya towards Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay) in the far west of the Northern Territory. Warangkula had inherited senior responsibility for these places.
Water Dreaming, is one of two paintings in which Warangkula was elaborating on the theme in late 1971. A companion piece to this work, Water Dreaming with Bush Tucker is identical in size and was painted in November-December 1971 (Bardon and Bardon, 2004, painting number 70, p.163). Judging by the similarity of elements of both works the chromatic range of intense reds through to oranges and yellows set against fields of white dotting on a black ground, the similar handling of paint and application of dots of various sizes in bands it seems likely that both were painted either at the same time or one after the other.
Bardon's documentation of Water Dreaming with Bush Tucker applies to Water Dreaming, 1971. Both paintings depict an inundated ground where water runs from waterhole to waterhole (shown as roundels). The composition of both works hinges on the desert iconograph for the Water Dreaming, three sets of concentric circles joined by three meandering lines, which runs laterally through the centre of Water Dreaming, 1971. Above, sinuous vertical lines indicate flashes of lightning while the white dots represent rain.
In keeping with the interpretation of similar works by Warangkula, the lower section may represent abundant bush foods that grow as a result of such nourishing rains. Furthermore, the series of U-shapes on the left side of this section may indicate an ancestral custodian of the Water Dreaming, sheltering in a cave, as in Water Dreaming ceremony in cave, 1971 (in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria and illustrated in Bardon and Bardon, 2004, painting number 67, p.161, and in Ryan et al, 2011, p.264).
References: Bardon, G. and J. Bardon, Papunya, A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2004 Ryan, J, J. Kean et al, Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert art, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011
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