OLD MEN, 1972

Important Aboriginal Art
26 March 2014


(c.1928 - 1998)
OLD MEN, 1972

synthetic polymer powder paint on composition board

51.0 x 34.0 cm

$40,000 - 60,000

Executed in the painting shed at Papunya
Possibly Consignment 18 to the Stuart Art Centre, Alice Springs (this painting was acquired directly from Pat Hogan after the closure of the Stuart Art Centre)
Private collection, New South Wales
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 29 June 1998, lot 30
Private collection, Tasmania

This work is accompanied by a document with a hand drawn diagram and identifying annotations, with the title of the work 'Old Men' and identifying the artist as Yella Yella Gibbs [sic] and no. 18.

Catalogue text

Yala Yala Gibbs was one of the Pintupi artists who formed part of the original men's painting group organized at Papunya by Geoffrey Bardon in 1971. His early paintings are characterized by a strictly limited palette, often of red, white and black as in Old Men, 1972, and in Five Women in Kalipinypa Rain Dreaming Country, 1972, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, illustrated in Ryan, J, Kean, J., et al, Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2011, p. 254. Stylistically, Old Men, 1972, relates to Sand mosaic, 1972 (ibid., p. 249) with its dazzling array of meandering and zigzagging lines set against intensely dotted ground. The effect created is one of intense visual drama.

According to the documentation accompanying the painting, Old Men, 1972, refers to two old men who were left to die in the desert. The men are represented by the concentric circles that appear at the top of the painting. Below these, ovoid forms radiating from a central roundel symbolize the men's spirits. At the centre left, the series of red arcs represent food that had been left for them. In the lower section, the field of lateral meandering lines encodes the Dreamings that the men share, and their country.