Hills of Turkey Creek c.1984 natural earth pigments and bush gum on canvas 182.5 x 149.5cm (71 7/8 x 58 7/8in).
PROVENANCE Mary Macha, Perth Private collection, Melbourne Important Aboriginal Art, Sotheby's, Melbourne, 29 July 1998, lot no 14 (illus.) The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired in 1998
Paddy Jaminji was in his early 70s when Hills of Turkey Creek was painted. He had been painting regularly for nearly a decade. Initially his work, along with that of several other elderly men at Warmun (Turkey Creek), was focussed on producing boards painted with specific sites and activities associated with the Kurrirr Kurrirr Jaralku. The story of the Dreaming of the Kurrirr Kurrirr by Rover Thomas is well known and Rover himself is regarded as one of the great Australian artists of the twentieth century. It was the paintings by Jaminji however that initially caught the attention of the wider Australian art milieu when Mary Macha first purchased a set of Kurrirr Kurrirr boards in 1980. These boards had been deemed due for wash down and repaint. Macha, recognising their merit, acquired the set marked for destruction, and also replaced the boards with a new set - as well as commissioning further works from Jaminji.
Jaminji's art is heavily textured - as evident in Hills of Turkey Creek, the Kurrirr Kurrirr boards and many of his later paintings - by both the grittiness of the traditional pigments and their manner of application, with the apparent uniformity of tones of each colour in fact randomly varying in density dependent on the amount of water or fixative present in each brush stroke.
In a similar manner, what at first glance appears to be a rather uniform layout of the various design elements - the arcs and ovals that represent the hills in question and the horizontal elements representing either valleys, creeks or roads - is in fact full of subtle variation of shapes and colour. It is this combination of texture and variety of forms and colour in what appears initially to be a relatively uniformly balanced layout of similar elements, that draws the viewer into a landscape that is in fact just as 'real' as it is 'schematic'.
Noting the variation in the manner in which the various ranges and interstitial valleys or other topographic features are depicted one wishes that this, and many artworks by Paddy and other artists of the growing Turkey Creek School, were documented in greater detail at the time of collection. Such documentation may have led to a much greater understanding of the iconography of the art of the region. This point however does not detract from this or other works by Paddy, rather it makes one ponder further on his works in an effort to fathom the depictions of country and cosmology embedded within them.
Hills of Turkey Creek represents a fine work by an artist who must by all accounts be regarded as the founder of the Turkey Creek school of Indigenous art. While other Turkey Creek artists - such as the late Rover Thomas and the more recent crop that continue to produce highly sought after works to this day - have been highly celebrated, none to my mind have the subtle strengths reflected in the works of Paddy Jaminji. After all, as he said, and is quoted on his headstone, "I bin paint'im first".
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