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”.

 

Historical:

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.


 


King Sisters Pop Art

The exhibition of paintings by Sarrita and Tarisse King opened last night.  There were a lot of new works and new styles by these amazing artists who are forever evolving with thought provoking paintings that, not only have a huge depth of knowledge about the country, but also relate really well to viewers who stand in awe of some of the huge canvases.   

Pommery Champagne commissioned Sarrita to paint a special series of works.  These paintings featured on a new art label on their latest champagne bottles.  Both the paintings and the bottles are on display in the foyer at the Hilton Hotel.  More works on level 4 in the gallery.

 

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

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. 

ABORIGINAL LAWMAN AND ARTIST, TOMMY WATSON, HAS BEEN PAINTING SINCE 2000 AND PRODUCED A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF MAJOR WORKS.

TOMMY IS A SENIOR PITJANTJATJARRA ELDER WHO REGARDS HIS PAINTINGS AS HIS BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY.  HE IS SYMBOLICALLY PASSING ON VERY IMPORTANT CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE IN EACH WORK HE DOES.

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.

TOMMY'S IMMENSE TALENT WAS RECOGNISED IN 2007 WHEN HE WAS ONE OF ONLY EIGHT ABORIGINAL ARTISTS THAT WERE SELECTED FOR THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION AT THE PRESTIGIOUS MUSEE DE QUAY BRANLY IN PARIS 2007.

 

Visit us in Melbourne

Red Desert Dreamings Gallery is located on the Yarra River, level 4 at the Hilton Hotel.  

If you're interested in Aboriginal art, a serious collector or just want to learn more about our amazing indigenous culture then please come and visit us.  The art gallery is open throughout the week and there is someone in the gallery most of the time, but if you want to be certain a gallery member is there, give us a call, as we're always happy to talk with you about our favourite topic, Australian Aboriginal art and culture.


The gallery has a huge collection of Aboriginal art, it was started by Kevin and Jenny Winward, both serious art collectors.  Whilst the gallery does specialize in art from the centre and western desert regions of Australia, it also has an excellent collection of Aboriginal art from Arnhemland or Top End Art (as it's often known by), art from the Tiwi Is as well as the Kimberley in the far west of Australia.

The Dalai Lama's visit to Red Desert Dreamings gallery with Kevin, Jenny, Lucas and Sam Winward.

Red Desert Dreamings supports the artists and their communities.  Aboriginal art has become popular world-wide helping many artists who want to remain in their community earn their living thru art.

Red Desert Dreamings holds  art exhibitions regularly, join our mailing list if you want to be advised when they're on.  Apart from the gallery where Aboriginal art is exhibited throughout the year and open 7 days a week, we often take over the foyer at the Hilton Hotel, where we're located, so you can browse many of our artworks there.

Artists such as Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Clifford Possum, Mitjili, Minnie Pwerle, Turkey Tolson and Walangkura all are represented at Red Desert Dreamings, old masters that hold a special place in a serious art collector or investor's heart.  These senior elders of the Aboriginal desert mob helped to put Aboriginal art on the world map and some are still alive and painting.

Amongst the rising stars of the Aborigianal art world are Tarisse and Sarrita King whose contemporary works depict the Dreamtime stories going back over 40,000 years.  The works by these two sisters are still very much in the "affordable" price bracket for most purchasers. 

Many collectors are now enthusiastically purchasing these two artists' works.  Their paintings show knowledge passed down to them by their father and go back thousands of years, their paintings are fully resolved, but definately have that contemporary edge that bridge the gap between traditional Aboriginal art and modern day paintings.   The future for these two sister's is looking extremely bright.

If you're after a special painting for your home, office, boardroom or perhaps wedding gift or something special for an overseas guest then Red Desert Dreamings can certainly help you.   We not only have an art gallery full of amazing works, but also a stockroom with many more paintings waiting to be appreciated by new owners.






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.

 

Didgeridoos

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.

 

ABORIGINAL SAND PAINTING

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.

 

 

Guess who called into the gallery this week??

Wonderful surprise to catch up with Tarisse King when she called into the gallery this week with her family.  Her little girl has certainly grown a lot and still as active as ever.

 Tarisse and her sister, Sarrita, are known for their paintings depicting the Earth cycles of this country.  

Tarisse's, Pink Salts, paintings (see pictured below) show the pink hues of the minerals that come up from the ground found in many of the lakes between Adelaide and Darwin.   The detail each work is extraordinary and the emotion, knowledge and love of the land, plus the skill of Tarisse with a paint brush is making her works more and more in demand by art lovers and collectors worldwide. 

If you are considering a painting, where the value of each work is still at an affordable price, then Tarisse's paintings are certainly worth looking at.

 

Their popularity has grown over the past year and this hard-working artist will, I'm sure, be painting up a storm for many years to come. 

Tarisse is an Aboriginal painter who takes her work extremely seriously and is constantly evolving, creating exciting contemporary art pieces that are fully resolved as only an artist who has the skill and knowledge of their subject can.  If you're after an investment piece now is certainly the time to buy.

 

 

WANDJINA the creator spirits

The most powerful image of The Kimberley is the Wandjina rock art, found in the caves of north-west Western Australia.

The Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Woonambal people trace their ancestry directly back to the Wandjina spirit ancestors.

 

Wandjina are only found in the Kimberley region, nowhere else in Australia.

 

 Each image of the Wandjina, painted on the rock caves, is said to have formed at the end of their creation activity on earth after they had created the land forms, the plants, animals and humans.  At the end of their work they lay down in the cave and turned into a painting.

This Wandjina is deeply spiritual to the people of The Kimberley area and a lot of the caves are now protected, many have been and still are hidden to protect them.  These paintings are said to have been done from spiritual beings with no human intervention.  Their image may be copied on bark, paper or canvas for commercial purposes, but their power is greatly diminished when it takes on another medium and painted by a human.

 

Wandjina is a generic term and there are individual Wandjina's with individual names ie Jundart, Lightning Wandjina. 

All Wandjina, when painted, have similar features...they are always painted in full frontal, they have large "owl-like" eyes, long nose and no mouth.  Although stories vary from clan to clan, it is said that if the Wandjina had a mouth and he opened it the rains and floods would come.   Other's say having no mouth stops gossip and telling sacred stories.

 

When the indigenous people of The Kimberley were displaced during early European settlement,  the senior law men who were responsible for retouching the Wandjina in the caves weren't able to continue to do this important task.


It had always been important to keep the painting fresh as this in turn meant that their sacred lands would also remain fresh.

 

In 1996, senior lawman, Charlie Numbulmoore, returned to the caves to retouch the sacred Wandjina, after doing so he said these words

"I made you very good now, I don't know how I did it, very good.  You must be glad because I made your eyes look like new.  That eye, you, like this my eye, I made them new for you people.  My eye has life, and your eye has life too, because I made it new.  Don't try to bring rain, by wife might drown with rain.  The rain might drown her....."

 

There has always been some debate whether the Wandjina is the oldest cave painting, older than the Mimi Spirit, but there does seem to be evidence that the Mimi did predate the Wandjina.

The Wandjina has always been, and still remains, one of the most significant images of The Kimberley.

 

 

How Aboriginal art is helping remote communities

OVER the past 30 years Aboriginal art has had a massive leap to fame worldwide. 

 

This has impacted on communities in a very positive way.   Some communities were extremely impoverished and provided little or no opportunities for the people to find employment. 

Now, many artists live and work from their homelands, and are providing for their families and their communities.  The local art centres, often the hub of the community, are giving a level of support to the people living there that the government hasn't been able to do.  Many of these art centres have now become self-sufficient.


 

In the past many people had to leave their communities, forced to find employment in other areas to support families, thus losing social and spiritual bonds with their homelands.

 

Art has given the people, living a traditional lifestyle in remote areas, a source of income and played an extremely important role by passing on spiritual information and messages that could have been all but forgotten by future generations.

Now with an absolute renaissance in Aboriginal art and culture, non indigenous people are also learning more and more about the indigenous people of Australia, and with that a new found respect for those who call the remote areas of Australia their home and the home of their ancestors.

Aboriginal art has and is continually passing on cultural knowledge that many thought was lost.  The younger generations of Aboriginal families who grew up away from their traditional homelands living in cities and country towns, now have the opportunity to learn more about their time-honoured customs thru the paintings that are being created.

Urban Aboriginal art has also emerged as another form of artistic expression for indigenous people who left their homelands. 

 

Originally the artists painted about their experiences, often very difficult, living in a society that was very different from their own, where getting acceptance was extremely hard.  

Now urban Aboriginal artists are very much a part of mainstream Australian art and the links between the traditional and the contemporary styles have emerged to create some amazing paintings.


ARCHIVES