Balgo Hills artists are considered by many to be
the most innovative and daring painters working in Central Australia.
The regions art demonstrates a strong
link with the land and traditional ceremony and practices (such
as gathering bush food). Vivid use of colour, strong iconic
imagery and bold composition characterise Balgo art. For examples
of such work, go to our Balgo
paintings and Balgo
The different language groups represented at Balgo all broadly
share the same major Dreaming stories. The details and emphasis
may vary, but the main themes in Balgo art are the same: the
Tingari Dreaming for young initiated men travelling across the
country learning their cultural traditions; and the Wati
Kutjarra or two goanna men who were sorcerers (or maparn)
and were responsible for making the law and the creation of
certain major features of the landscape.
Other prominent stories among men and
women are concerned with permanent (living) water. This
is often associated with the Rainbow Serpent, the primary
creation ancestor in Aboriginal cultural belief. The
remaining key Dreaming is for Luurnpa, or Wirrimanu,
the sacred kingfisher and its wanderings across the
View of Balgo hills, north Western
Photo: Tim Acker © Warlayirti Artists
Not all Balgo paintings reflect the major myths and events
of the Dreaming. Depictions of 'country', food-gathering, and
initiation stories also have strong associations for each individual
artist. The paintings depict the earth, dry watercourses, rockholes,
sand hills and clay pans. These are all patterned into the painting
with the careful use of dots which illustrate a mythological
landscape, invisible yet pervasive.
The art community comprises approximately 100 active artists from
six tribal groups that live in surrounding areas to Balgo. There is
a solid core of about 20 well recognised artists in the fine art market,
a number with international reputations. These include Eubena (Yupinya)
Nampitjin, Lucy Yukenbarri, Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Susie Bootja Bootja,
Elizabeth Nyumi, Boxer Milner, Sam Tjampitjin and Tjumpo Tjapanangka
as well as younger emerging artists such as Pauline Sunfly.
| In 1986 the first major exhibition of of works
from Balgo - Art from the Great Sandy Desert - was held at the
Museum of Western Australia. This exhibition led to much greater
interest in Balgo art, and enabled the arts centre to be established.
The centre was established in 1987 and has operated effectively
since then. A new building was opened in July 2001.
Inside the Balgo Art Centre
A further exhibition in 1992 at the National Gallery of Victoria
called "Images of Power" helped to widen the
interest in Balgo art. The exhibition catalogue by Judith Ryan
is still the main reference for Kimberley art, while the two
books by James Cowan on Balgo art and artists (Craftsman House)
are excellent sources on Balgo art and artists. Go to our Web
site shop to buy the most recent books
on Balgo art. The video "Painting Country" is
Work by Balgo artists is exhibited regularly in a wide ranging exhibition
program and has been collected by all of the major national galleries
in Australia and is held in many private collections in Australia
and other countries.