Margaret Loy Pula and Lily Kelly Napangardi

Marc Straus

poster for Margaret Loy Pula and Lily Kelly Napangardi
[Image: Margaret Loy Pula Anatye "Bush Potato" (2011) Acrylic on Linen 59 x 60 1/4 in.]

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MARC STRAUS presents the work of Margaret Loy Pula and Lily Kelly Napangardi, two of Australia’s leading Indigenous artists in their first gallery exhibit outside of Australia and Asia.

Symbols, myth, nature, and culture define the language of Aboriginal art while lyrical and rhythmic abstraction tells ancient stories. Unlike post-war American abstractionists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack or Franz Kline whose abstraction is implicit, Aboriginal artists typically depict tribal tales and dreams through abstract mark-making. This dialect harks back to ancestral origin and creation and is an entirely unique vocabulary.

What makes the work of Margaret and Lily particularly compelling to our “Western” eyes is its affinity to recognizable post-war minimalism and yet neither artist would likely have known such work much less be influenced by it. Each has an immediately recognizable language.

Margaret Loy Pula’s (b. 1956) paintings are organic, reminiscent of natural fauna, spider webs, human cells, and geometric abstraction. Known for her award winning “Bush Potato” paintings, these works have a delicacy and fragility that is countered by strength of color. The viewpoint of the work looks down onto a landscape, similar to a topographical map where the bush potato grows. A bush potato sends out long white edible tendrils up to 10 feet long similar to the common sweet potato and Loy Pula’s slight lines and geometric webs mimic this aesthetic. Here we are reminded perhaps of early grids of Frank Stella but with Pula everything is interconnected as though these are close-ups of a microscopic world. These might seem to be aligned with hard-edge minimalism but her lines and the intervening spaces are more intuitive and fluid.

Lily Kelly Napangardi (b. 1948) is known for Tali (Sand Hill) paintings. The finesse of her style is emotive and the muted tones show mysterious topography of land, rain, sand, and wind. Napangardi’s tiny microcosmic dots, dashes, and grains move with the viewer’s eye and give a multi-dimensional appearance presenting an almost three-dimensional illusion of space and depth. The Sand Hill paintings are typically done in white, red, or yellow dots on a black background. Some rarer examples of her work are painted in two colors (mainly white & red) on a black background. One might think of Vija Celmins’ black starry works or even works by some of the earlier color-field painters as Larry Poons and Dan Christensen. But with Lily the works are more emotive and unfold without a specific focus. They hew to their origin with a dream-like quality.

Napangardi won the Northern Territory Art Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Painting in 1986 and the General Painting category of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) in 2003. In January 2006, she was named as one of Australia’s 50 most collectable artists by Australian Art Collector magazine.

Margaret Loy Pula hails from an incredibly distinguished artistic family. She is the daughter of well-known Aboriginal artist Kathleen Petyarre and the mother of Abie Loy Kemarre. In 2011, Loy Pula was the first female artist to win the prestigious Sunshine Coast Art Prize and the Paddington Art Prize. In 2012 she was a finalist in the Wynne Prize and was the first Indigenous artist to win the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize Margaret and Lily are represented by Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane, Australia.



from May 09, 2015 to June 12, 2015

Opening Reception on 2015-05-09 from 17:00 to 19:00

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