Hughie Ah Won bio

d.o.b: 1965

Birthsite:                              Barkley Tablelands, NT

Language/Tribal Group:         Wunambul / Djubidja 

“My name is Hughie Ah Won, I am a Wunambul man, my skin is Djubidja. I paint the Wandjina and stories that were told to me from my elders of the Wunambul tribal. I paint these stories hoping to pass them onto the younger generation of the Kimberley region”.



Hughie Ah Won was born on Creswell Downs Station, Barkley Tablelands, NT in 1965.  His father was working as a stockman on the station at the time.  Hughie’s father, Edward Ahwon was from Spring Creek Station, WA and his mother, Gracie Ned was from Borroloola in the Northern Territory.

Hughie, his brother Robert and sisters Susan, Marjorie and Audrey grew up and went to school in Wyndham.  After Hughie finished school he worked as both a stockman and a house painter for several years before commencing work in government departments such as Aboriginal Legal Services and Children’s Services.  

Incredibly, given the depth of his talent, Hughie only started painting seriously in 2007. His inspiration to paint came from the old boab carvers in Wyndham. They hadn’t had the eduction that Hughie had, but they had life experience and incredible talent. His mentor was Octa Carroll (father of senior ochre artist Tommy Carroll) and then Alan Carroll and Leslie Evans.

Hughie realised that people in Wyndham were interested in his artworks and started selling locally and in Kununurra for Waringarri Arts in 2008.   In 2009 Hughie and his family moved to Adelaide temporarily where he entered an art competition for the creation of a calendar and his work was chosen to be represented for the month of April.

In early 2010, keen to learn more of the technical aspects of painting, Hughie moved to Cairns where there is a huge art culture.  Recognising his immense talent, a local gallery started working directly with Hughie.  As well as painting his incredible artworks, Hughie also produced stunning etchings and lino cuts.

Hughie now resides in Kununurra, East Kimberley with his family.  Inspired by his country, he continues to create his amazing works.

Desert artists sadly missed

If anyone wanted proof of the tribal differences that still define Aboriginal Australia then the individual painting styles that four recently dead women artists made their own ought to be sufficient. 

Story by Jeremy Eccles

Sadly, in the last few months, we've lost Angelina George from Ngukurr on the Roper River, Sally Gabori from Bentinck and Mornington Islands, Munmarria Daisy Andrews from Fitzroy Crossing via the Great Sandy Desert and Myra Cook from the Ngaanyatjarra Central Desert lands.

In a sense, Angelina and Daisy both painted the places where desert met mountain ranges, and both reflected the murderous expansion of those pastoral 'pioneers' who all-too-often killed the people whose land tenure system they couldn't comprehend but whose lands they coveted - but how differently they saw them as a result of both geography and centuries of acculturisation. 

For Daisy Andrews, her 'Kaningarras' and 'Lumpu Lumpus' were blood-red with unhappy memories of lands lost, relatives shot, sacred water-holes defiled and songlines disrupted. Yet she used synthetic polymer paint on paper to create deceptively appealing landscapes - so successfully that the West Australian Opera commissioned a 12 metre backdrop for their production of 'Alcina' in 1996. I wonder if Perth opera audiences recognised their complicity in Daisy's pain? "I knew that country in my mind from my brother Boxer. That country is empty now. It made me cry. I tell you I was just upset".

Meanwhile, Angelina George had a mix and match childhood involving traditional ceremony in the mountains south of the Roper River and Christianity in town, school and chapel (where her father was the first Indigenous pastor), and she worked assiduously for a decade to find a way to capture the importance of the land to her. Sidney Nolan's outback paintings have been associated with the result in her 'Ruined Cities', which she shows as something between a real world swirling in constant motion, and abstraction. Romantic (with a capital R) has also been used by a critic who felt the touch of Casper David Friedrich. Yet Angelina's emphasis actually was: "I have special memories from my travels ... I can paint my memories and imagination ... not exactly what it looks like. You know. Traditional way and law. My imagined country never stops in my memory."

Such a powerful force, memory - especially when these elders had at least first-hand reports of the days before the white man came and spoilt everything.

In Sally Gabori's case, the missionaries did their best to negate her Kaiadilt memories of life on the strands of Bentinck Island - cut off from both black and white intrusion for centuries - by forcibly transferring them all to Mornington Island when drought, a cyclone and tribal fighting combined to threaten their existence. These untamed people were thus opened up to Christianity - and Gabori's husband Pat lost 2 of his 4 wives. But..."Such was the trauma of this forced shift that for several years no child was born and survived, rupturing forever the chain by which one sibling transmits language to the next". Dr Nicholas Evans of Melbourne University has written about vanishing languages internationally, inspired by his Kaiadilt studies. But in human terms, this trauma meant that Sally Gabori could never pass her tribal lore on to the offspring of her own 11 children through song or conversation. Painting was the only way. 

And she dedicated the last 9 of her 90 years to playing catch-up with canvas, delighting the market with her unpredictable blocks of "sizzling scarlets, piercing yellows (and) opulent blues" which somehow reflected essential facets of her island home. Actually, I suspect Gabori's black and white paintings will best stand the test of time. 

Did Myra Yurtiwa Cook down in the Gibson Desert have such a tough time? She seems to have moved in and out of Country freely with her family, bringing her children up in Blackstone and Warnan. The pioneering Warburton Art Project gave her the first opportunity to paint in the classic way of desert dotting. But after that, reality caught up with her as her life was tossed and turned between opposing forces in the Aboriginal art business. The purists at Desart in the Noughties sought to restrict artists to working only in community art centres; some artists wanted to make their own choices. And the 'notorious' John Ioannou was standing there to assist them. For a time, he actually ran a community art centre at Irrunytju - at the behest of its artists.

We shall miss all of these women elders, as will their families. But their art will live on to educate them and delight us.


Aboriginal artist Shorty Jangala Robertson now on site

Three new artworks have been added on site.  This amazing desert artist, who lives and paints at Yuendumu lived the life as a child of a desert nomad and had next to no contact with white-man until the Conniston massacre.  Shorty's father took him and his family to Mt Theo to hide from being short, when his father died his mother took him to Yuendumu. more about this artist

Shorty's paintings have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at numerous exhibitions, he is one of the true icons of Australian Aboriginal art.

see paintings by this artist

Aboriginal Art Thrives in the Top End

Visual Arts

Aboriginal art thrives at Top End of the market

Tommy Watson

Tommy Watson with one of his grand-scale works of art in his country near Alice Springs. `Everything is on a big scale out there in the desert,' says arts adviser Ken McGregor. Picture: Steve Strike Source: TheAustralian

MENTION Aboriginal art these days and you're likely to hear a lot of doom and gloom.

The global financial crisis, Labor's resale royalty scheme and its changes to superannuation really knocked the bottom out of the market, dealers say.

But not the top, it seems.

In galleries around the country, high value works, often large ones, are selling swiftly.

"There's a bevy of artists whose work is trading at prices above what we saw prior to the downturn -- I would say at record prices for these artists in private sales," Russell Roberts, director of Piermarq Art Advisory in Sydney, says.

Respected art valuer Brenda Colahan thinks sales have improved markedly in the past six months.

"The top end is finding a market, perhaps privately, not at auction," she says.

The most popular works tend to be by elderly desert artists, people who grew up in the bush before contact with Western civilisation.

"People recognise there's a direct association between these works and a culture that's 40,000 years old and potentially coming to an end," Roberts says.

Ken McGregor, an author and art adviser, argues many of the best paintings now being produced are monumental or very large. "Everything is on a big scale out there in the desert," he says.

"There's something expansive that really lends itself to huge work.

"Some of these paintings are really breathtaking." McGregor curated a show of works by the desert artist Tommy Watson at Metro Gallery in Melbourne, including one five-metre piece priced at more than $800,000.

One of the biggest proponents of monumental works is Chris Simon of Yanda Aboriginal Art, who represents Watson and looks after him while he paints.

"The downturn during the GFC was probably the best thing that could've happened to my business," he says.

"It got rid of all of the small dealers who encouraged artists to paint more than they were capable of doing to high quality."

He says he has since been able to coax the best artists to produce fewer, larger works that he hopes will provide a cultural record.

There has long been a tension between private dealers such as Simon and the government-run art centres that dot the outback and keep many artists employed.

Desert Mob, a highly regarded exhibition of work primarily from art centres, opened in Alice Springs this week. Art centre works tend to dominate competitions and public gallery shows.

McGregor says even though many art centre operators are his friends, he thinks they don't always focus enough on quality.

"The best work is really being produced outside art centres," he says.

Dealers say most of the top end works, selling for prices from $10,000 to $130,000 and up, are going into private collections in Australia and overseas.

McGregor thinks more should be going to institutions.

Spectatular paintings

If you want to see some of the most outstanding paintings ever done, then the works by Tommy Watson would have to be on your "must see" list. 



The incredible attention to detail is reflected in every painting created. The fusion of colour, texture and form allow you to experience his country as it's depicted on canvas.



Traditional Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal people traditionally painted on rock, on the body and in the sand  to tell the stories of their ancestors and their creation stories.

Aboriginal Rock Art

Aboriginal rock paintings appear on cave walls all over Australia.  The best-known are in the Kimberley area of West Australia.  This is probably the oldest art form.  The Wandjina, the ultimate creator,  hunting scenes and the Bradshaw figures or Mimi Spirits are found on many cave walls going back over 40,000 years.  This art form tells us about the activities, the spiritual beliefs and the social activity of the people of the time.


Aboriginal Bark Paintings

Painted on the bark harvested from trees.  The bark is first soaked in water and then smoked to create a flat shape for painting.  Bark was also used to make everything from  baskets to canoes.  Most bark works come from Arnhemland and northern West Australia.


Aboriginal Dot Paintings

These paintings come from the centre and western desert areas where dots, using acrylic paint are used to create and depict plants, animals, waterholes and land forms.  Originally done in ochre's the Aboriginal desert artists moved onto acrylic paints when they were introduced to them by the missionaries. 

Aboriginal Aerial paintings

 Many paintings of country are viewed from above, "bird's-eye view".  Painted by the artist sitting on the ground, they have been created with an intimate knowledge of land and tell the Dreamtime creation stories of the plants, animals, earth cycles and landscape.


Aboriginal Carvings and sculpture

Weapons such as spears for fishing, hunting and fighting were created out of stone and wood.  Coolamuns, baskets for food gathering and small animal and bird figures  were also carved out of the local wood.  Necklaces and other adornments worn for ceremony were made out of feathers and seeds.  Bush string to bind things together was made out of fibres from plants.  These fibres were also used to weave baskets.



The traditional wind instruments from North East Arnhemland were created out of a tree branch that was hollowed out by termites,  They were cut down and shaped to a long hollow instrument used in ceremony by the men.



Symbols were drawn in the sand as maps showing the young initiates where to find waterholes, food and teach about hunting and how to recognize animal tracks.

Some very elaborate sand paintings were used for ceremony, they took days and days to create and once the ceremony was over were destroyed.



Dorothy Napangardi killed in car accident

Born early 1950's - 1st June, 2013

One of Australia's prominent Aboriginal artists, senior Walpiri women,Dorothy Napangardi was killed in a car accident near Alice Springs last weekend.

She was a winner in 2001 of the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Awards and was regarded as one of Australia's leading indigenous contemporary artists.

Born at Mina Mina near Lake Mackay in the Tanami Desert her painting career began in 1987 and flourished in the mid to late 90's. 

 She grew up at Yuendumu, but spent most of her life at Alice Springs.  She had little schooling but learnt about her Dreamtime stories that she painted from her elders.  Her father was a senior lawman.

Her works on Mina Mina and the salt plains have been purchased by galleries, museums and private collectors worldwide.

Dorothy lived to the most part a traditional life and was out on a hunting trip with her family in the outback bush not far from Alice Springs when the accident happened.

Aboriginal Desert Artists

The desert is the currently home to some of the most important Aboriginal artists.  Whilst the majority of these artists use acrylic paint on canvas rather than the traditional ochres, they still paint sitting on the ground in the customary way creating works that reflect the traditions of a culture that still has relevance today.


The Aboriginal art market has become a worldwide phenomenon; each painting has a depth of knowledge that only someone who knows their subject so well is able to portray on canvas. 


In the late 1980’s early 1990’s people who purchased Aboriginal art often could be put into two groups, one who wanted to learn more about the culture of the indigenous people of this country and the other group who were straight-out art buyers

Now those groups have merged somewhat, the people that wanted to learn more about the culture of Aboriginal people became aware that they were also looking at amazing artworks.

Those who were only interested in the works as an art form are now also focusing on the stories behind the painting.  As one American buyer said to me with his first Aboriginal art purchase  “I’m not interested in the culture it’s just great art!” that particular art buyer became a passionate collector as he realized the combination of knowledge and artistic skills is what makes these paintings great.


The desert has many topographical features, apart from a huge area of desert sand there are grassy areas, mountain ranges, massive rock formations,  waterholes and springs that are all part of the sacred journeys and spiritual stories now depicted on canvas.


As well as the land formations the plants and animals are also a part of traditional life in the desert; they all are a part of life’s cycle and important for the continuation of the species.


The paintings that we see hanging on the gallery walls all have these features, they tell us about a land that has the oldest living culture, and the people of that culture who are now sharing their knowledge with us all.

Buying Aboriginal Art

Many people who are buying Aboriginal art for the first time are quite daunted by the prospect of how to go about their purchase.

If you are new to Aboriginal art is it always a good idea to learn as much as you can about these unique artworks before making your choice.

At Red Desert Dreamings we are always happy to tell you about the paintings that we have on offer,  give you as much information as you need to feel confident that your purchase is authentic, and the right one for you.

There are many different styles that represent the different areas where the artists come from. 

Generally speaking there are 3 main areas to consider;  The Desert where paintings are bright and bold and known for works showing a lot of dotting and iconography, these are generally painted in acrylic paint on canvas or linen, The Kimberley where ochres (natural pigments) are used to create images of the country in broad and bold designs on canvas and Arnhem Land or Top End art,  cross-hatching or raark work depicts the Dreamtime stories painted on canvas, paper or bark.

Every Aboriginal artist is telling us something about their culture, it is a very significant expression about their spiritual beliefs and the law that guides them all. 

All paintings from Red Desert Dreamings gallery have been sourced either direct from the artist or otherwise a community that supports that artist and their family.  All works come with a Certificate of Authenticity with details of the painting and the artist.  Where possible we source images of the artist painting their work that accompanies the documentation.


A fine example of art from The Desert by  Bill "Whiskey" Tjalptjarri


Top End art from Tiwi Is.

Kimberley art by Queenie McKenzie




Australian  glass artist dances with fire to create some of the finest glass pieces to hit the international art world.

Tina Cooper, one of Australia's finest glass artists with a reputation internationally, is a resident on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, where she works with liquid currents of molten glass drawn from a 1200 degree furnace to create her masterpieces.

 "I am a rough diamond that does not want to be polished because my rawness has taken a lifetime to create, just like a diamond"  Tina says.

United States President, Barack Obama, purchased a piece of Tina Cooper's indigenous series for the White House.


The outback pieces that Tina has created are simply amazing, crafted in glass drawing inspiration from her trips outback to the desert and beyond.

 Tina hopes that people sense and share the depth of love and feeling that she puts into all her work which is a true expression of her own emotions and thoughts of the moment.

Her strong connection with the Australian environment is reflected in many of the pieces that show illusions of the Sunshine Coast beaches and her love of the ocean.  All these are richly represented in her glass art, making her one of the most sought-after glass artists in the world.