Art, Culture, Country

Partnering with remote Indigenous Art Centres to deliver a landmark digital project that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to create and share unique arts and cultural experiences with the world.

UPLANDS Logo
UPLANDS Logo

Art, Culture, Country

Partnering with remote Indigenous Art Centres to deliver a landmark digital project that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to create and share unique arts and cultural experiences with the world.

Explore Art CentresRight Arrow
Art Centres

Spinifex Arts Project

Spinifex Arts Project has been the creative means for the Spinifex People since they established it in 1997 and who famously submitted two large-scale collaborative paintings as part of their successful Native Title determination for the return of the Spinifex Lands in 2000. The Spinifex Arts Project began as a series of ‘bush painting camps’ where culture, country and creativity combined and blossomed into a
renowned arts practice.


Today, Spinifex Arts Project is a dynamic arts hub with a purpose-built painting studio in Tjuntjuntjara Community that artists access daily and an adjoining multi-media space (Milpa) that operates on a project-to-project timeline. The Spinifex Artists are recognised and highly sought after both domestically and on the global stage and have a full program of exhibitions each year.


There is an assured inter-generational transference of the Spinifex aesthetic that the younger artists embrace within their own creative expressions to take the project forward and in doing so forge new territory both aesthetically and commercially with growth and stability into the future.

Featured Artists

Born: 1930

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Simon Hogan was born circa 1930 in mid-western Spinifex between Paltju and Lingka. Simon’s exact age is unknown as dates of birth were estimated by the A.E.M. missionaries when the Spinifex people, on arrival at Cundeelee, were “sorted” into family groups,given English names and approximate dates of birth. During childhood two fathers, one born at Warakunu and the other at Munki raisedSimon. Simon’s mother’s country is around Tjulya. The Spinifex people were arelatively discreet southern Pitjantjatjara tribal group withties to the north and east that lived a fully traditional hunter-gatherer life until the late 1950’s to early 1960s when most people either walked in to Ooldea and Cundeelee or were taken by AE Mmissionaries to Cundeelee Mission. From 1995 Simon Hogan was a prominent member of a group of senior traditional owners from Spinifex country who lobbied the WA State Government for Native Title.

Although Simon spoke no English he was a confident, initiated Pitjantjatjara man who spoke to senior government officials regarding ownership of country and culture. Exclusive Native Title rights were granted to Simon Hogan and the Spinifex people in 2000 ofover 55 000 sq kms of the Great Victoria Desert in WA. In 1997 the Spinifex people began painting with acrylic paints on canvas, painting traditional stories using thiscontemporary medium. Simon again took a leading working with intense concentration and focus to translate Tjukurpa (stories or mythologies) into publicartworks. The Spinifex people also produced collaborative works two of which,men’s’ and women’s’, were used in the preamble to the successful Spinifex Native Title claim.

Simon is an effusive individual who introduces himself as “Mr. Hogan”and will happily recount his many exhibition travels throughout Australia and the world. His status as a painter in his own community and on a national and international level has steadily increased over these years making him one of the most sought after Spinifex artists. His works feature in many public and private collections.

Born: 1934

Region: Pitjantjatjara

At the time of Lawrence’s birth in the early 1930’s, his people, the Spinifex people had no contact with Western civilization. Lawrence grew up as a young boy living afully traditional hunter-gatherer life. His initiations as a young man in this country have given Lawrence intimate knowledge in a physical as well as a spiritual sense of the sites and stories of the area he was born and responsible for. He was born just outside of the north-eastern boundary of Spinifex at a place called Urlu circa 1934. Running through the length Lawrence’s stretch of country is the Walawuru (wedge-tailed eagle) Dreaming. Not surprisingly the dominant topographical feature in Lawrence’s country is a string of craggy topped breakaways. In parallel alignment off to the south run a series of thinly connected dry salt lakes and naturally underscoring these features reddish sand plains.

Depending on the character of the light, Lawrence’s Country can at different times appear hauntingly bleak or soaringly beautiful. His spacious, iconographic paintings vibrate with culture and beauty. Like his contemporaries Lawrence was pulled in to Cundeelee Mission during the sweeps in the late 1950s. He came in a young Wati (initiated man), married late in Cundeelee and had one son. Lawrence painted in the early years, collaboratively and individually before leaving Tjuntjuntjara for about 7 years. He returned on a permanent basis when his son went through Men’s Law at Tjuntjuntjara.

Born: 1954

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Patju Presley was born in the 1940s at Itaratjara, an important site between to the community settlement of Watarru and Kalayapiti in the Great Victoria Desert. He is a senior Pitjantjatjara Law man with great knowledge of the geography of the Western Desert and the associated Tjukurpa. His intimate knowledge of the country is directly related to survival in this beautiful but sometimes harsh environment learned from the generations of his ancestors.

Connections between the Land, the provider of food, water and shelter and the Tjukurpa a spiritual understanding of the world are finely interwoven in his paintings, creating works of an elegant abstraction. Each work is related to a specific site and ancestral beings and is strongly based on his experience and perception of the Law and the Land. When he was a young child he lived a traditional lifestyle walking along Tjukurpa tracks that linked sacred sites and water sources. From the tjilpis (old men) he learnt the ways of life in the desert and Anangu social order, law, culture, Tjukurpa and ceremony. Patju first learnt about Christianity from Mr Wade, the missionary who came to the desert on camel preaching the Bible and giving out tea and damper. When the mission was established Patju spent some time there learning English to read and write hymns and Bible stories. Patju trained to be a preacher at the mission at Ernabella. He is also a strong cultural man who practices traditional cultural business and inma (ceremonial singing and dancing), carves punu (ceremonial and utilitarian
objects) and hunts malu (kangaroo), kalaya (emu), kipara (bush turkey) and rabbit.

In his paintings Patju refers to many of the Tjukurpa of the country of the Great Victoria Desert including the Wati Kipara (Bush Turkey), Wati Kutjara (Two Water-Snake Men), Kalaya (Emu), Wati Pira (Moon Man) and Minyma Kutjara (Two Sisters). His images are visual representations of the epic journeys and creation stories of the country. References to
important landforms, rockholes and Tjukurpa tracks implicitly evoke the tjukuritja beings (of the dreaming), their interactions and activities. References to features in the country by desert artists are heavily loaded with complex symbolic meanings and interconnected layers of cultural references.

Born: 1973

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Timo grew up with stories of life in the Spinifex Lands. His mother and family dug themselves into the sand dunes to try to avoid the smoke from the Maralinga atomic bomb. Before he was born she walked to a location close to Tjuntjuntjara and found a pile of tin meat left by the patrol officer. A white man came and picked all the people up in an old Landrover and drove them into Cundeelee Mission. Later his mother was driven from Cundeelee to the old hospital in Kalgoorlie for Timo’s birth in 1973. Timo spent his formative years with his father, Neville McCarthur and his stepmother Alkawari at Mt Margaret, and later at Warburton, closer to his father’s traditional lands. Once back in country Timo’s father took him to all the culturally significant places. He wanted to introduce him to the country, to the spirit caretakers and teach him the law. “My father took me to Lake Baker, all around, rockhole and all. I know all these places but I can’t show them. Millmillpa (dangerously sacred). I’m taking over this country now, as my father is getting old. I’m the only son and people say we are like twins, my father and me. We look the same. I know how to use spears – he taught me everything. Timo went through Men’s Business initiation at Warburton. The group travelled down to Tjuntjuntjara on the business run. “My father’s really a Spinifex Man. His brothers are Hogan and Jamieson”. After going through business Timo settled in Tjuntjuntjara and lived with his mother. His father visited regularly before he got too old to make the long journey. Painting his country, the vast salt lake, the place he now has cultural obligations to look after. A place of power and danger. “I’ve rediscovered my love for painting. I do painting all the time now. I’m painting my country Lake Baker.”

Born: 1941

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Ned Grant was born near Papatatjara in the north-east quadrant of Spinifex Country in the Great Victoria Desert, WA. During the Aboriginal Evangelical Mission (AEM) sweep through Spinifex in the late 1950’s Ned was taken into Cundeelee Mission with older brother, Ted (dec) and younger brother Fred (dec). Ned was a nyiingka (segregated bush boy) when he came in and was inducted into Men’s Law in the ranges country north-west of Laverton.

Ned, a senior man by the early 1980’s, helped drive the return to Spinifex country. Today Ned is the main ceremonial leader of the Tjintu (sun side) of Spinifex society.

Ned has been painting with the Spinifex Art Project since its beginning in 1997. His works have been included in major exhibitions nationally and internationally. Ned was one of 17 men who collaboratively painted their particular estates, which merged together, formed the Men’s Native Title painting. Ned continues to paint his “run” – the area around where he was born and subsequently lost his umbilical cord.

Born: 1951

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Byron was born circa 1951 between Tjawar and Tjintirkara between a significant men’s , Wati Kutjara ( Two Men) and women’s, Kungkara (Seven Sisters) dreaming tracks adjacent to the SA border. Byron was transported to Cundeelee Mission via Kulkapin as a 10-12 year old boy.

Although Cundeelee was over 500 kilometres from the closest point in the Spinifex homelands, life in Byron’s teenage years and entry into manhood would have been quite similar, in a concentrated form, to life in Spinifex. The Cundeelee missionaries (most unusual for those times), did not attempt to erase language and culture. In fact some encouraged and assisted in the logistics around cultural activity and some learnt and became proficient in the language. The Spinifex people lived in moving camps around the mission settlement in country not dissimilar to areas in Spinifex. Traditionally the disparate nomadic family groups could only come together in good seasons for cultural business. Here at Cundeelee these pre-conditions were a constant and the dissemination of Spinifex knowledge and cultural activity thrived.

Although he was not part of the Elders group who orchestrated the return to country when Byron returned to Spinifex in the mid-1980s he immersed himself in to all things cultural as if making up for lost time. He started on the Men’s native title painting in 1997 and consistently painted thereafter collaboratively and individually. With his thirst for tradition at Cundeelee, Byron managed to infuse within his consciousness the deep knowledge of country, its stories and patterns and to express them in his prolific work.

As a collaborative artist Byron has works in international and Australian collections and was a finalist in the WA Indigenous Art Awards, Perth, W.A, in 2008.

Born: 1981

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Jessica Veronica Browns traditional homelands are close to the tri state border region in the Western Desert at the intersection of WA, SA and NT. Family connections ties her to country around Blackstone (Papulankutja), Wingellina (Irrunytju) and Tjuntjuntjara. Although a Pitjantjatjara woman with familiar ties to the desert she was born in Kalgoorlie hospital in 1981 while her mother was living with relatives at the Kurrawang Mission, originally established as a ‘native reserve’ in 1952 by the Gospel Brethren (later known as Christian Brethren). In the 1980s, it was known locally as the Kurrawang Aboriginal Christian Centre and by 1984 was a self-managed Aboriginal community with a parent-directed school on the site.

Veronica and her mother later returned to their traditional homelands and settled in Irrunytju Community. Veronica’s grandmother Anmanari Brown was one of a group of artists who established Irrunytju Arts in the early 2000’s paving the way for the younger generations to develop artistic careers. Like Anmanari, Veronica often paints country around Kuru Ala, an important women’s site belonging to the Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) songline. In her work traditional desert motifs are used to translate the Tjukurpa into
visual works.

Veronica is one of the new group of painters working with the Spinifex Arts Project.

Born: 1969

Region: Pitjantjatjara

Michael was born at Cundeelee Mission in the late sixties to Simon and Estelle Hogan. He went to the mission primary school and high school at Coonana after Cundeelee closed. He attended Wongatha Caps, a Christian College in Esperence and also did some schooling in Perth. Michael married a woman from Yalata and he has several children and grandchildren. He has watched from afar his parents hugely successful painting careers and in early 2023 decided he was ready and comfortable to depict his story on canvas. Michael paints Upupily Upupilya, a very important Tjukurpa from Cundeelee.

Born: 1978

Region: Pitjantjatjara

“My name is Maureen Donnegan and I was born in Kalgoorlie. My mother is Kanta Donnegan who has been a Spinifex Artist for a long time. Shortly after I was born, we went to Cundeelee Mission and I attended school in Coonana. I then moved to Yakatunya, staying with my mother, father and family. There was no school in Yakatunya, only one lady teaching. There were two shops, one caravan and one water tank. Later on, we moved to where Tjuntjuntjara Community is now located. But before there were houses, just a camp near the bore. This was the first camp. I grew up moving around a lot. I went to school in Coonana where I learned how to paint with Louise Allerton and Peter Twigg, the two people who started Spinifex Arts. When school finished, we went to a community called Ningamia with my mother. I got married and moved to Warburton where I had one daughter and lived with my new husband. After living in Warburton, I went back home, to my Country, to Tjuntjuntjara, where I have lived ever since.”

Journal
A Project by Agency
About

UPLANDS is an immersive digital project that has been designed to celebrate Indigenous Art Centres and share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artistic and cultural practices with the world.

This large scale immersive digital mapping project features over twenty remote Indigenous Art Centres, and interviews with over 150 Indigenous artists and arts workers from across the country.

UPLANDS is a project by Agency and has been funded by the Australian Government through the Restart to Invest, Sustain and Expand (RISE) program and the Indigenous Visual Art Industry Support (IVAIS) program.


Contact

General

Email

Social

Instagram


Principal Partner


Government Partners


Project Partners


Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Sovereign Custodians of the land on which we live and work. We extend our respects to their Ancestors and all First Nations peoples and Elders past, present, and future.