Born circa 1925, Tickelara, south of Frog Hollow, WA; died 23/7/2002, Frog Hollow, WA. Painter.
Language group Gidja. Location Warmun, WA.
Close to the Bungle Bungle Ranges (Purnululu), the small outback town of Warmun (Turkey Creek) has become a meeting point for four- wheel drive excursions to Purnululu. The Warmun Aboriginal community opposite the Aboriginal-owned store and cafe is home to the Gija people. The community was home to many of the Kimberley“’s most famous early modern artists including Rover Thomas (c. 1926““1998), Queenie McKenzie (c. 1915““1998), Jack Britten (c. 1925““2002), George Mung Mung (c. 1920““ 1991), Hector Jandanay (c. 1925““ 2006) and others. Newer generations of painters continue the tradition of heavily textured ochre painting that characterises art of this famous painting community.
The rounded hills and outlined shapes of the unique rock formation Purnululu (the Bungle Bungles) are graphically portrayed by their traditional owners such as Jack Britten.
Founding members of the Warmun painting community, McKenzie, Britten, Jandanay and Wambini, were a powerful force in the community. Their lives were intertwined with that of leading Kimberley painter Rover Thomas whose paintings were often soft and lyrical renditions of his Canning Stock Route birth place.
Warmun paintings are notable for use of ochre in a great variety of colours, including many shades of brown, pinks, grey-blue and green- black. Often thickly applied, the ochres give the painting surface a unique, highly textural quality. Hills rise, dome-like in cross-section and outlined in white dots, in the paintings of Jack Britten, whereas the Rover Thomas“’s works took a more planar perspective.
A leading painter of the Frog Hollow group of painters (including Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie), Britten was best known for silhouetted landscapes seen in side section, based on landforms like the Bungle Bungle ranges adjacent to his desert home. Regarded as one of the most senior of the Kimberley group of ochre painters his work gained international and Australia-wide recognition through major survey and individual shows, including Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, NGV, 1993; Power of the Land, NGV, 1994; Nangara, Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings, Australia and touring internationally, 1996““2006; Imaging the Land, NGV, 1997.
Awards: Best painting in European media award, NATSIAA, 1992.
Rep: NGA; most state galleries; Artbank; Holmes à Court Collection.