Kangaroo, Rain, Flying Ant, Possum Dreamingby Denis Nelson Jupurrurla
The painting depicts iconography symbols. The bottom left illustrates kangarro prints with campfire (white). The smoke rises (white line) into the sky creating rain clouds (purple). In the centre is the flying ant, which migrate to make a new colony when the rain comes. The possum tracks (E) are shown on the left side of the painting (yellow).
Denis Nelson Jupurrurla was born in 1966 in Yuendumu Community, which is approximately 3 hours from Alice Springs. Denis is a Warlpiri man from the Western Desert region, and although not too far from Alice Springs, it is still a vastly different lifestyle with many traditional practices still occurring today. Denis attended the local primary school in Yuendumu before moving into Alice Springs to attend Yirara College – an Indigenous boarding school. As an adult he moved to Alice Springs more permanently with his wife, Janet Spencer Nungurrayi, also an artist, and their three children. Denis works at the Alice Springs Court House as a translator for Aboriginal people. Central Art represent both Denis Nelson and his wife Janet Spencer Nungurrayi.
Denis began painting as a teenager and was taught his Dreamings from his father. Denis is the custodian of the Pamapardu (Flying Ant) and Ngapa (Water) Dreamings. I (Sabine Haider, Director of Central Art) spoke to Denis about his artwork once and he told me he paints for the sheer enjoyment of it, it brings him a spiritual connection no matter where he is to his land, country and culture.
Central Art commissioned three pieces in 2007 by Denis and all have since sold. Denis’s Flying Ant Dreaming begins when there is heavy rain fall, just after this the flying ants emerge from their mounds and sprout wings, and they fly off to rebuild new colonies in lieu of the next rain fall. Traditional iconography is used to depict the sand dunes, Spinifex, lightening and rain fall in Denis’s artworks. These symbols were taught to him by his father and family members as part of his initiation.
The country in Denis’s paintings travels west of Yuendumu to where the Ngapa Dreaming begins. As part of the Ngapa Dreaming, the left handed Jagamarra is found and observed as he throws his boomerang to stop the ants nesting on his country. Denis will often depict common desert animals such as the kangaroo and possum in his art, although not central to his story, the depictions are still an important part of traditional Aboriginal life and the surrounding environment.
Although not a career artist, Denis’s paintings are special pieces which he shares with us, his audience. The almost sacred time of man connecting to his country, culture and Dreamings are found in each of his works. His paintings are affordable, particularly given their size as medium to large works. His use of strong, masculine colours with detailed and precise dotting in neutral tones demonstrate the strong and important role that men play in Aboriginal society.
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Important copyright notice
The Copyright of all images and documentation remains with Sabine Haider. The Australian Copyright Act protects all artists from unauthorised copying by giving control over original works of art to the artist by law. However depending on the use proposed, Sabine Haider from Central Art – Aboriginal Art Store can facilitate reproduction of works with the permission of the artist as we have developed close relationships over the years with many individual painters and craftspeople.
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