Important Fine Art and Aboriginal Art
30 November 2016


(c.1920 – 2008)

synthetic polymer on linen

122.0 x 152.5 cm

bears inscription verso: artist's name, title, size and Watiyawanu Artists cat. 10-0532

$15,000 – 20,000
Sold for $31,720 (inc. BP) in Auction 46 - 30 November 2016, Sydney

Watiyawanu Artists of Amunturrungu, Mount Liebig
Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne


Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne, 5 – 26 July 2006

Catalogue text

That cocky and crow and eagle that's Whiskey, that's the essence of Whiskey, that's his spirit, that's who he is.' 1

Rockholes and Country Near the Olgas, 2006 is a fine example of Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri's shimmering aerial paintings of his birth country Pirupa Akla, located west of Uluru. Completed in his second year of practice, when the artist was in his late eighties, this work refers to the physical landscape, and to the spirits residing there. Specifically the White Cockatoo story which originated from Pirupa Akla, a creation story of the cockatoo, eagle and their adversary, the crow. The battle between the birds resulted in the formation of various topographical features, such as the rockholes. The artist and his family depended upon these rockholes, and they were a constant focus in Tjapaltjarri's work.

This painting is significant not just for the way it reveals his innate 'genius' for handling scale in a spontaneous fashion, but also because it demonstrates how his signature 'style' was fully (and uncannily) articulated at the outset. As Nicolas Kachel recalls, 'in December 2004, Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri walked into the painting room at Mount Leibig, previously the exclusive reserve of women, and requested canvases and paints for himself. And so, at 85 years, he became an artist.' 2 Although he had previously painted intricate dot designs on spears and small nulla nullas, over the years 2004 to 2008 he produced a body of work that was astounding in its shimmering vigour, pulsating colour and often monumental scale.

Exceptional for the unique manner in which the artist built up an extremely thick and complex surface, Rockholes and Country Near the Olgas is composed of dotting so various in size and density it seems to swarm across the surface. As the eye travels across the surface of the painting, it dissolves into a dynamic openness allowing the iconic indications of walking tracks, and key land forms pertaining to the ancestral white cockatoo story to hover. The sheer profusion of dots is not employed as infill, but rather, sets up swirling, swarming optical rhythms that release and transmit the key narrative elements concerning the white cockatoo, the eagle and the crow electrifying the whole picture. At the same time, these vibrating swathes of varied dotting, invoke the vast expanses of country, linking features such as the dazzling white rock of the cockatoo, the rockpools, the scattered shards of glistening white stone, and other ‘tell-tale’ signs of the furious battle of ancestral birds that formed his country.

1. The artist quote in documentary Thornton, R. (Producer and Director), That Old Man, 2009, distributed by Thorny Vision, New South Wales
2. Kachel, N., Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, John Gordon Gallery, Coffs Harbour, 2007, unpaginated