Works from the K.D.H. Ainsworth Collection
26 March 2014


(c.1929 - 2011)

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

180.0 x 240.0 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name and Mangkaja Arts cat. 578/08

$20,000 - 30,000
Sold for $21,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 33 - 26 March 2014, Melbourne

Mangkaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing
Raft Artspace, Darwin, acquired 2008
The K.D.H. Ainsworth Collection, Queensland


Raft Artspace at Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne, 30 July - 3 August 2008

Catalogue text

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Mangkaja Arts which states: 'A jila (waterhole) to the east side of the Great Sandy Desert. A lot of jilji (sandhills).'

'Nobody taught me how to paint. I put down my own ideas. I saw these places myself; I went there with the old people. I paint jilji (sand hills), jumu (soak water), jiwari (rock hole), pamerr (hills and rock country). I think about mangarri (vegetable food) and kuyu (game) from my country and when I was there. When I paint I am thinking about law from a long time ago. I am thinking about the country, my country.'1

Wakartu Cory Surprise's paintings reflect robust mark making. The strength and confidence of her hand delivers almost muscular works. Epitomised by her joyous use of colour, mixed directly onto the canvas, where voluminous forms of reds, blues and yellows spread across the canvas, only contained by the surrounding white borders. Recording stories of her past and important sites from her cosmology, Wakartu likes to tell a story. This fondness for storytelling has been essential to Wakartu's painting, resulting in a body of work that is consistently epic in concept. The core themes and narratives are often repeated with only minor variation of the formal and symbolic.

Monumental in size and impact, Kutarmiti, 2008 from the KDH Ainsworth collection recalls a waterhole (jila) to the east side of the Great Sandy Desert. The accompanying certificate from Mangkaja Arts notes that this is an area of many sandhills (Jili).

Wakartu was born at Tapu. After the death of her parents she travelled with her brothers to Kaningarra and Wayampajirti where she grew up. As a married woman, she and her husband worked at Christmas Creek Station, becoming a cheap labour source for pastoral owners. Station life, however, didn't rule out the practice of ceremonial life, which was maintained at Go Go and Christmas Creek Stations. When the going got too hard, there was always the option of running away back to country, which Wakartu did several times. Wakartu raised seven children while working for the police, on stations, and collecting minerals for rations.2

Locating to the nearby town of Fitzroy Crossing, Wakartu first began producing drawings and painting as a way of recording bush trips and stories for country at the Karrayili Adult education centre in the 1980s. This eventually resulted in an exhibition of works by Fitzroy Crossing artists at Tandanya in Adelaide in 1991. With the establishment of Mangkaja Arts in 1993, Wakartu became one of the new centre's most enthusiastic artists, 'full of in-depth knowledge and not afraid to get in there and have a go'.3

Wakartu was the winner of the Telstra Work on Paper Award in the 14th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 1997, the Western Australian Premiers Indigenous Art Award in 2009 and The Western Australian Indigenous Art Award in 2010.

1. Catalogue from solo exhibition, Raft Artspace and Mangkaja Arts at Silvershot Gallery, Melbourne, 2006, translated by Paul Miller.
2. ibid.
3. ibid.