We don’t often examine the commercial side of Aboriginal art-making much on AAD. So the initiative of Euan Hills of Hobart’s Art Mob in totalling up his sales for 2015, listing his Top 20 artists and then building a 2016 sale around their popularity is worthy of record. And comment.

How patriotic those Taswegians are! Two of the top 4 artists “ and three of the Top 10 – are locals and, apart from the jewellery queen Lola Greeno, are almost unknown outside the Apple Isle. I wonder why Mick Quilliam and Julian Oates have never been seen at the NATSIAAs in Darwin??

And then there’s Dennis Nona “ an old friend “ at No.2, despite his imprisonment and consequent ‘disappearance’ from showing in such institutions as the National Gallery in Canberra. Obviously it’s the art not the man that counts in Tasmania. Several other names would be on snobbish collectors’ lists of ‘decorative’ artists “ and I’m thinking mainly of the Yuendumu and Utopia women, headed by the consistently popular Alma Granites, Pwerle family clone, Charmaine, and the eternally over-productive genius, Gloria Petyarre. But they’re clearly all highly marketable.

Supply and demand play a part, of course. The Derby (WA) pairing of Jack Dale and Anjolu Umbagai come from a particular source “ Neil McLeod – that other dealers are uncomfortable with. No problems in Tassie. And the Tiwi pair are different mystery; Natalie Puantulura and Karina Coombes are unknown to me and haven’t, as far as I know, appeared at the annual pan-Tiwi shows in Darwin in recent years. So how come they’re big in Hobart?

Finally, how wonderful to see the late, great Queenie McKenzie still up there in the Top 20 almost two decades after her death.

Here’s the Art Mob 2015 list:
1 Mick Quilliam “ Bicheno, Tasmania
2 Dennis Nona “ Badu Island, Torres Strait Islands
3 Alma Nungarrayi Granites “ Yuendumu, NT
4 Julian Oates “ Mountain River, Tasmania
5 Murdie Nampijinpa Morris – Nyirripi, NT
6 Sally Gabori (dec) Mornington Island, QLD
7 Lola Greeno “ Launceston- Tasmania
8 Julie Nangala Robinson “ Yuendumu, NT
9 Charmaine Pwerle – Utopia, NT
10 Anjolu Heather Umbagai (dec) “ Derby, WA
11 Jeannie Petyarre – Utopia, NT
12 Gloria Petyarre – Utopia, NT
13 Fabrianne Nampitjinpa Peterson “ Alice Springs, NT
14 Jack Dale (dec) “ Mount House Station, WA
15 Natalie Puantulura “ Tiwi Islands, NT
16 Lynette Nangala Singleton – Nyirripi, NT
17 Sam Juparulla Wickman “ Albury, NSW
18 Queenie McKenzie (dec) – Turkey Creek, WA
19 Kudditji Kngwarreye – Utopia, NT
20 Karina Coombes “ Tiwi Islands, NT

Missing from the list, mainly because he generally only manages to produce two paintings a year, employing only the pointed end of a skewer rather than a paint-brush, is Cameron Ross Kemarre. He’s another artist I’d never heard of, but, represented by Art Mob, he’s selling all he can produce.

Here’s Art Mob’s bio for him:
Cameron Ross Kemarre was born in Alice Springs in 1966 to his Aboriginal mother & father. He has lived in many parts of Australia including Alice Springs, Darwin, Tiwi Islands and Port Augusta. He started painting in 2004 in Alice Springs with the pointed end of the skewer, and the patterns and detail he achieves are unique. Cameron may paint in detail, but the stories he shares are quite comprehensive. If you look at the back of his canvas you will find a long story written on the back. To date, Cameron has painted 30 paintings but he hasn’t had a solo exhibition as it would take too many years to accumulate a collection of paintings. Each piece generally takes more than 6 months to paint. His amazingly fine pointillist approach creates paintings within paintings. Many people comment that they looks like silk tapestries (see image). His subject matter is far from the traditional Dreamings of an earlier generation. His grandmother’s country is being handed back to the family and he will return to this country south of Alice Springs this year to build and live on his land.

Inspired by Art Mob’s effort, a very different picture is revealed in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs “ though The Gallery Shop did make a brief appearance in King’s Cross as well last year. Nichola Dare set to and drew up her Top 20 in no particular order “ with the extraordinary result that not a single name crosses over with Hobart’s favourites! Clearly Dare sources her work very differently from Euan Hills, with Papunya Tjupi, Martumili, Warmun, Mangkaja, Bindi and Ernabella in regular relationships.

It’s a random thought “ and I know how hard it is for commercial galleries to maintain relations with some art centres, which change their minds every time they change their art co-ordinator. But wouldn’t it be great to be able to go into a specialist art gallery in every capital city to see the full range of art from all over the country? Probably an impossible dream “ and it makes those art fairs all the more important in educating and delighting aficionados. Now that Adelaide has pioneered where formerly only Darwin and Cairns had gone before “ isn’t it time to extend fairs to all the southern city marketplaces??? I note in recent days that the WA Government has boosted funding for its art centres (at the same time as it’s threatening to close down remote communities!), and the SA Government is being told to boost art tourism in the APY Lands. What about funding regular art fair visits?

Here’s The Gallery Shop’s Top 20:
Flora Brown “ Papunya Tjupi NT
Nancy Nodea “ Warmun WA
Kathy Maringka “ Kaltjiti SA
Nora Wompi “ Martumili WA
Judy Mengil “ Waringarri WA
Yurpiya Lionel “ Ernabella SA
Dolly Snell “ Mangkaja WA
Andrea Pindan “ Mangkaja WA
Conway Ginger “ Bindi NT
Isabel Gorey “ Papunya Tjupi NT
Bugai Whyoulter “ Martumili WA
Brenita Pumani “ Mimili SA
Phyllis Thomas “ Warmun WA
Tjariya Stanley “ Ernabella SA
Billy Benn (dec) – Bindi NT
Vicky Cullinan – Iwantja SA
Phyllis Waye – Mangkaja WA
Tjawina Porter – Tjarlirli Arts
Rosalie Miller – Papunya Tjupi NT
Kathleen Ngale – Utopia NT


Artist: Lola Greeno, Mick Quilliam, Julian Oates, Dennis Nona, Alma Nungarrayi Granites, Charmaine Pwerle, Gloria Petyarre, Jack Dale, Anjolu Umbagai, Natalie Puantulura, Karina Coombes, Murdie Nampijinpa Morris, Sally Gabori, Julie Nangala Robinson, Jeannie Petyarre Fabrianne Nampitjinpa Peterson, Lynette Nangala Singleton, Sam Juparulla Wickman, Queenie McKenzie, Kudditji Kngwarreye, Cameron Ross Kemarre, Flora Brown, Nancy Nodea, Kathy Maringka, Nora Wompi, Judy Mengil, Yurpiya Lionel, Dolly Snell, Andrea Pindan, Conway Ginger, Isabel Gorey, Bugai Whyoulter, Brenita Pumani, Phyllis Thomas, Tjariya Stanley, Billy Benn, Vicky Cullinan, Phyllis Waye, Tjawina Porter, Rosalie Miller, Kathleen Ngale,

Category: Australia , Blog , Exhibition , Feature , Industry , News ,

Tags: Hobart , Jeremy Eccles , Nichola Dare , Tasmania , The Gallery Shop ,