Travelling honey ant dreaming - (version 7) 1972 synthetic polymer paint on composition board 45.5 x 30.5cm (17 15/16 x 12in).
PROVENANCE Purchased at the Stuart Art Centre, Alice Springs in 1973 Important Aboriginal Art, Sotheby's, Melbourne, 29 June 1998, lot 126 Private collection
EXHIBITED Origins of Western Desert Art: Tjukurrtjanu, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 30 September 2011 - 12 February 2012; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, 9 October 2012 - 20 January 2013
LITERATURE Judith Ryan and Philip Batty et al., Origins of Western Desert Art: Tjukurrtjanu, Melbourne: Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p. 188 (illus.)
Tim Leura belonged to the Anmatyerr group whose country lies on present day Napperby Station, some 200 kilometres west of Alice Springs. This is the land of the ancestral Honey Ant, Yerramp, with which the artist was intimately associated. This totemic linkage served Leura in good stead when he moved to live in the settlement of Papunya, itself built on another ancestral Honey Ant place. In his entry on the artist in Ryan et al, 2011:180-81, John Kean alludes to the fact that the connection with the Honey Ant gave Tim Leura 'agency' at Papunya. He also set up his camp in the north west of the community facing towards Napperby.
The significance of this subject in the artist's life is evidenced by the frequency with which he painted Honey Ant Dreamings. In Bardon and Bardon 2004, pp.334-37, Geoffrey Bardon describes eight paintings by Tim Leura on the subject, and illustrates seven. All the paintings feature symmetrical compositions that are characteristic of Anmatyerr art. In this, the seventh painting in the series, Leura symbolically depicts a major ceremonial event: the parallel lines entering the picture frame from four sides indicate large groups of people making their way to the ovalshaped ceremonial ground which doubles as the nest of the honey ants.
Bardon suggests the oval forms in the painting are ceremonial objects decorated in ritual patterns akin to those painted onto the bodies of participants. The concentric roundels represent ground drawings and the ceremony is the domain of men as indicated by the depiction of the fighting boomerangs and stone knives in diagonally opposite corners of the picture.