The Gould Collection
15 March 2017


(c.1928 – 2003)

ochre on linen

95.0 x 85.0 cm

bears inscription on Jilamara Arts and Crafts stamp verso: Artist: Kitty Kantilla / Skin: Fire / Dance: Rain / Catalogue No.: 666-01

$30,000 – 40,000

Jilamara Arts and Crafts, Melville Island (stamped verso)
Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney
Gould collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in December 2001


Kitty Kantilla, Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney, 29 November – 22 December 2001, cat. 11
The Director’s Choice 2015, Celebrating 35 Years, Gould Galleries, Melbourne, 1 May – 13 June 2015, cat. 27 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)

Catalogue text

I will paint until the day I die.1

‘Kantilla’s poetics of intimacy taught the art world that quality is not contingent upon scale. Her means were few: she needed only dots, lines and ochre colours to create infinite variations of rhythm, balance and beauty, of which no two are exactly alike. Kantilla’s works, like those of early European modernists, do not map space or tell a story, but radically affirm the painted surface and thereby guarantee the autonomy of art. Yet the power and inwardness of Kantilla’s innovative art hinges on its deep resonance with customary ritual. For the viewer, Kantilla’s inescapably modern works are also highly charged with ceremony, with something spiritual and untouchable.

Kantilla’s sophisticated form of abstraction eludes explanation in terms of narrative because she strenuously pursued her art from deep within her culture. By painting, Kantilla was also singing and dancing: she sensed and invoked holistically, through a special music of natural ochre and design, the decorated objects, the painted dancers and their kinetic movement, the percussive rhythm and dynamism of ceremony. This was her Tiwiness, her identity: it drove her to make art and was her special form of activism; painting was central to her identity.’2

‘Kitty Kantilla was one of Australia’s most remarkable Indigenous artists, celebrated for her innovation, unique style and mastery of a range of mediums... Kantilla produced an extraordinary body of work from the 1970s until her last days in 2003. In her hands the magic of Tiwi culture was translated into works of international significance.’3

1. Kantilla, K., quoted in Ryan, J., ‘Kitty Kantilla’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2007
2. Ibid.
3. ‘KITTY KANTILLA’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007