Barney Ellaga exhibition at Alcaston Gallery until February 28 2004.

story illustration
Published Wednesday, February 18, 2004

As a senior custodian and lawman for Alawa country, Barney Ellaga possesses a holistic view of his country. Now, he expresses that profound understanding in mature and immensely appealing work.

In the current exhibition of work by Barney Ellaga on show at Alcaston Gallery, we see works that are quite different to the three paintings on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia (from around 1998). In those larger works, the artist used big, flat panels of solid colour. In this exhibition, Barney Ellaga continues to experiment with the surface, and draws attention to rock art in his Alawa country by alluding to the chalky and textured lines that result from painting over the rough stone surface of cave walls.

The stippled brushwork gives an interesting texture to all the works: the lines are feathery or stippled rather than solid, blending between the foreground and background colours. The palette is generally bold and highly keyed, with purples, orange, reds and browns predominating. Ellaga’s painted surfaces combine to produce a shimmering effect that is also seen in the recent works of Makinti Napanangka and Emily Kngwarreye’s overpainting style of the mid-1990s. The visual language conveys a poetic voice of understanding and affection for his country: vibrant brushwork alludes to a complex system of harmonizing forces and counter-forces in the semi-tropical land. Our eye moves, sweeping across the canvas and responding to the infinite details of the feathered brushwork over the background field.

Ellaga’s large "Alawa Country" (2000) shows a breathtaking panorama of his country. Here, the central theme is the Roper River, with various shades of landscape falling on either side. Colours range from burnt umbers to luxuriant greens and mauves that record the range of natural colours in this area.

As a senior custodian and lawman for Alawa country, Barney Ellaga possesses a holistic view of his country. Now, he expresses that profound understanding in mature and immensely appealing work.

To view this exhibition online go to Alcaston Gallery

Reviewed by Martin Shub February 2004.

Alawa Country

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