Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
4 April 2012


(c.1926 - 1998)

natural earth pigments with synthetic binder on canvas

180.0 x 240.0 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name, title, date and Red Rock Art cat. RRA016

$100,000 - 150,000
Sold for $108,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 24 - 4 April 2012, Melbourne

Executed at the 'Kaltya Business' Conference, Northern Territory University, Darwin, 1996
Red Rock Art, Kununurra
Private collection, Western Australia

Catalogue text

'Nowhere has the merging of the past and present, the spiritual and physical been more clearly realised than in Thomas's paintings.'1

Rover Thomas is arguably Australia's best know indigenous painter. Having been the subject of two important retrospective exhibitions, Roads Cross: The Paintings of Rover Thomas, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1994 and I Want to Paint, a traveling exhibition touring nationally from 2003 to 2005, in 1990 he was selected together with Trevor Nicholls to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale, the first indigenous artists to do so.

Rover first began to paint in the early 1980s after for a number of years instructing other artists such as Paddy Tjamatji in the preparation of painted boards, primarily those representing the Guirr Guirr palga, a public ceremony of songs, dances and images that was revealed to him in a series of dreams from a deceased woman. His paintings pioneered what became known as the East Kimberley school, characterised by two modes of representation that converge in a single gestural style, aerial views often depict roads and flattened country surfaces while simultaneously profile views outline the geography of the Kimberley.

Minimal and sparse, Waringarri - the Meeting Place is executed in the typical palette of the Kimberley; yellow, red and brown ochre outlined by a tracery of white dots. The painting was executed on the lawns of the Northern Territory University, while Rover was attending the 1996 Kalta Business Conference. This contemporary forum sought to bring together artists from the Kimberley, Top End and Central Desert regions of Australia to converse on issues relating to the management and growth of art centres in Northern and Central Australia.

A secondary purpose of the gathering was for artists to develop work either singularly or collaboratively marking the conference. The result was an exhibition titled 'The Meeting Place' which toured nationally for a number of years. Rover produced two paintings at the time of the conference, including this work. Waringarri is the Mirriwoong word for a gathering of people from different language groups for ceremony and law. Minimal in composition yet complex in meaning, Thomas depicts this meeting as a convergence of four lines intersecting at a central roundel.

Images of roads meeting became an enduring theme throughout his painting career and Rover produced a number of works featuring intersecting lines of travel routes. Wally Caruana in the exhibition catalogue to World of Dreamings, Traditional and Modern art of Australia posits that such imagery is potentially indicative of 'an image of reconciliation, of the artist's belief that both black and white can live in harmony, the image of the black line symbolising a bitumen road crossing the red line of an ancestral path suggests an inescapable reality; the mixture of peoples sharing the same lands in the contemporary world.'2 The monumental scale of this later work serves to further echo the importance of Thomas' celebrated position as the catalyst for the emergence of the East Kimberley school of contemporary artists.

1. Perkins, H., Traditions Today; Indigenous Art in Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales 2004, p. 134
2. Caruana, W., World of Dreamings; Traditional and modern art of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, electronic catalogue: