Watercolour artists make the country sing


Ormiston Gorge by Douglas Abbott. 

The watercolour tradition known as the Hermannsburg School and established by Albert Namatjira is alive and well. An exhibition of current exponents at Talapi in Todd Mall shows their distinct approaches and leaves an impression of artists fanning out into the country in all directions, capturing it in many moods.
A superb large painting by Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott takes you into Ormiston Gorge, in the glow of late afternoon, when the gorge is full of water and golden lighten, the tree tops molten lime and and cliff-faces softly radiant in mauves and reddish-pinks. A feast of colour without tipping towards too much, this painting is so seductive of the senses that you can almost hear the hum of early summer.
Other smaller works by the same artist are all but on fire with the intense reds of sunstruck rockfaces, such as his rendering of Standley Chasm, a subject made familiar by his artistic forebears, Namatjira and Rex Battarbee.
Peter Taylor in contrast captures the bright white light defining the edges of things and structuring his compositions like the bones of a hand (see below).  The dazzle becomes more diffuse across the sweeping valleys and dancing ranges rendered by Hubert Pareroultja or Gloria Paanka, while Elton Wirri brings out the shadows that firmly ground the landscape features.
Visitors to the gallery, many of them tourists coming in from their experiences of the Larapinta Trail or the West MacDonnells National park, have responded with enthusiasm. Works by Albert Namatjira Jnr, Douglas Abbott and Peter Taylor in particular have been running out the door. New works will be hung over the coming days.
Talapi, which works with art centres, makes a point of catering to diverse tastes and two other small exhibitions are on display at the same time. One features the work of Bindi Artists including a notable fresh talent, Ginger Conway. Ink drawings with watercolour washes are Conway’s medium. His hand is loose and sure, his eye acute and affectionate. His subjects are mostly dogs and birds (see above right), their character and movement so well observed with just a few fine lines. Even his tap has character. You don’t often see drawing from Aboriginal artists, so these are to relish.
Conway has attracted immediate national attention, having shown this year at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi and Alcaston Gallery, both leading Aboriginal art specialists in Melbourne. Now you can see him in Alice Springs.

Simpson’s Gap by Peter Taylor.


Interested in Aboriginal art? See our recent report on the future of the Aboriginal art economy.


  1. I love desert watercolours and I have a whole collection of many different painters gathered in 1987/1988 and I am enjoying them in Tahiti at the moment.

  2. Kieran, I really enjoy reading your art / craft reviews. You approach the subject with such respect. In this review, I was very impressed with your comment on Ginger Conway’s bird … “his eye acute and affectionate”. It made me look at that bird in quite a different way, more affectionately, I hope. I am familiar with Peter Taylor’s work and love his light filled canvases. Will be visiting this ex for sure. The Alice Prize at Araluen is stunning too; and beautifully curated. Please keep these reviews coming.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here