Songlines recently commissioned Paddy Sims to make a large collaborative canvas for a European museum exhibition. At Yuendumu the making of a large collaborative canvas often involves a bush trip to the country through which the Dreaming track travels. Paddy Japaljarri Sims, senior custodian of the Milky Way/Night Sky Dreaming story cycle, took us to the country where he was born and raised out towards Lake McKay. He told us his stories, and sang us his songs while the women danced and gathered yams, and contributed some songs of their own, The bush trip and the making of the collaborative painting are the subject of a documentary film "Too Many Japaljarris?" (still photos courtesy of Cecilia Alfonso).  
  Mr. Sims was inspired by the bush trip, charged up from the singing and dancing, and from being in the country where he was taught the stories by the men of his father's generation. Returning to Yuendumu, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, assisted by Paddy Japaljarri Stewart and Sheila Napaljarri Brown created a large painting from the Milky Way/Night Sky Dreaming cycle. Then Paddy Sims shared with us the deeper cultural significance of this story and how it is used in a ritual for bringing on the change of seasons or as Paddy phrased it, "Making the Nights Shorter," which the subject of a documentary film now in the editing stage. Stay on the lookout for excerpted video clips posted in this area of the site. Watch as a canvas unfolds from "kuruwarri" (Warlpiri for a Dreamings' essence, as in the sacred designs of a painting's iconography) to completed canvas.  



    A portrait gallery of some of the Aboriginal artists we've gotten to know over the years, including Emily Kngwarreye, Kathleen Petyarre, Rover Thomas, Queenie MacKenzie and others. These artists, who were generous with their time, shared something of their life experiences with us and provided us with a greater appreciation of their art and culture. The photographs are courtesy of Maggie De Moor, the former Director of Songlines Aboriginal Art, Amsterdam. Maggie has the gift of the great portrait photographers, a special ability to capture something essential in her subjects.  
  Aboriginal paintings are generally painted outdoors, with the paintings lying on the ground. The artists work their way around the canvas, applying paint from more than one direction, giving the paintings their distinctly nonwestern perspective. Though non-schooled in a western sense each artist tends to develop their own personal techniques which are often quite innovative. This photo essay follows a number of artist at work.  




Artists at Work