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Iwantja Introduction

Kaylene Whiskey
Tina Turner and Dolly Parton, 2020

Spirits, Popstars, and Royals

An Online Exhibition in Collaboration with Iwantja Arts

June 24 – September 04, 2021

Kaylene Whiskey, Vincent Namatjira, and Tiger Yaltangki are three leading members of the indigenous Indulkana Community in the northwestern region of South Australia on Anangua Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. All three artists are part of Iwantja Arts, one of eleven indigenous owned and governed art centers included in the APY Art Centre Collective.

Art centers like Iwantja Arts – founded in 1980 by artist Alec Baker– are often the only non-government source of income for the Anangu peoples. These centers are vital institutions that protect and promote the legacies of artistic production spanning several generations. Iwantja Arts supports the artistic practices of more than forty members, working across various mediums, including painting, sculpture, video art, and printmaking.

 

PRESS RELEASE

As part of the Q&A, each artist was asked to choose songs that they listen to in their studio. 

The playlist below reflects the musical inspiration behind their work. 

 

 
 
 
 
Kaylene Whiskey Info

Kaylene Whiskey
Courtesy of Meg Hansen Photography

Kaylene Whiskey's work celebrates heroic women, pop culture idols, and traditional Anangu culture to capture the blended reality that is contemporary life in a remote Indigenous community of Central Australia. Her practice links the traditional culture of her community’s elders with the experiences of a younger generation that has grown up with the contemporary influence of Western media. This intergenerational complexity can be seen in her works on view in Spirits, Popstars, and Royals, which combine the stylistic qualities of Aboriginal dot painting with modern subject matter. Whiskey’s chosen icons – including Wonder Woman, Tina Turner, and Dolly Parton – are depicted interacting with native plants and wildlife, and engaging in traditional Anangu activities like hunting, collecting bush tucker, and cultivating mingkulpa, a native tobacco plant.

Kaylene Supp

Unitard (Cher), 1978
Courtesy of Getty Images
 

 

 

 


As part of her artistic process, Kaylene sources most of her reference imagery online, and supplements this with images from second-hand books, album covers, comics, and magazines. Kaylene's studio space acts nearly as a physical mood board. Much of Kaylene’s imagery is associated with the pop idols and movie stars from when she was growing up (Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, and Cher). 

 

Kaylene Supp 2

Tina Turner as Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome (1985)
Courtesy of Alamy

 

 

Another recurring motif is Tina Turner from the film Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, some of which was filmed in Coober Pedy, which is quite close to Indulkana, where Kaylene lives and works. The film’s desert landscape is reminiscent to the context of Kaylene’s home.

Q&A

Kaylene Whiskey
Wai Cat Lady, 2021

Q&A with Kaylene Whiskey

What excites you most about showing your works in the United States?

I’m excited to share my paintings with a lot of new people, and the USA is the home of some
of my heroes, so I hope that somehow some of the people I love to paint - like Dolly Parton,
Cher, Tina Turner, and Whoopi Goldberg might see my work and get a little bit of a look at
Kaylene’s world.

What is your favorite food? 

I’m well known for making a really good soup – that’s my favourite thing to cook for family
and friends.

Which artists, living or deceased, are you most inspired by? 

Angela Tiatia, Del Kathryn Barton, Dolly Parton.

What is your favorite thing to do when you are not making art? 

Dancing!

What has been your biggest accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Winning the 2018 Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
My recent fashion collaboration with Wah-Wah knitwear – a custom Kaylene Whiskey
sweater!

What does Iwantja mean to you?
Home, family, friends, LOVE.

Your work breaks from the traditional aboriginal dot painting practice. How was it
received by the public, friends, and family at the beginning compared to how it is received
today? 

I just do what makes me happy – I love dot painting but I also love TV, movies, music videos, and comics. My friends and family and all the Iwantja artists are really supportive and everyone always wants to check out what I’m doing in my studio and I love it if my paintings make them laugh and smile.

Q&A 2 Kaylene

Kaylene Whiskey
Wonder-Kungka, 2021

What are some of your biggest dreams?
I’d love to travel overseas one day.

What do you like most about the work of Tiger Yaltangki and Vincent Namatjira? 

Vincent is a really good painter; I love his portraits of Aboriginal leaders – footballers like
Nicky Winmar and singers like Archie Roach. Tiger’s imagination is great – I like his paintings of monsters, and how he paints his family and friends, I wonder what he is thinking about a lot! He loves music too, and is often dancing in his studio.

What is it about Dolly Parton and Tina Turner that you like the most?

I love their music! Tina and Dolly are so amazing. Not just the songs, but their music videos,
album covers, and pictures of them performing are a big influence on my work. I’m really
drawn to strong female performers like Dolly Parton and Tina Turner, and these ladies also
have the best outfits and hairstyles, so I love painting them! I grew up listening to their
music, so they’ve been a big part of my life. When I’m listening to their music while I’m
painting, it is sort of like the singer is coming to life in the studio and performing just for me. I
start thinking:  What if Dolly and Tina came to visit me in Indulkana? What would they do?
What would they say?

How does it feel to know that you have fans like Fort Gansevoort on the other side of
the world?
 

I love connecting with people – if my art can reach someone on the other side of the world
and make them laugh or smile that is really special to me!

Namatjira Large

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 1), 2021

Vincent Namatjira

Vincent Namatjira
Courtesy of Meg Hansen Photography

A winner of the 2020 Archibald Prize, Vincent Namatjira’s bold portraits explore the complexities of colonial histories and their lasting effects on Aboriginal Australians. Inserting his own likeness into many of his works, Namatjira often renders himself in fictional encounters with global, contemporary political figures including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Queen Elizabeth II. Painting with broad strokes in acrylic, Namatjira often exaggerates the physical features and expressions of his subjects to satirical effect. Spirits, Popstars, and Royals features a selection of self-portraits in which the artist depicts himself juxtaposed with members of the British Royal Family in various improbable settings, thereby subverting the power structures of his interlocutors. This artistic strategy speaks to the complicated relationship between influential political figures on the world stage and the entrenched history of marginalization of the Indigenous Indulkana Community. Through his use of irony, Namatjira reclaims the power to document his own story.

Vincent Supp

Albert Namatjira, Vincent's great grandfather, meeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Canberra, 1954.
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

Much of Namatjira’s work explores his family’s intertwinement with the UK’s royal family. The queen is often a reoccurring character throughout his oeuvre. Namatjira poses himself next to royal and political figures to create a dialogue about the dynamics that are present within those relationships. 

 

Q&A with Vincent Namatjira

What excites you most about showing your works in the United States?

I was the first Indigenous Australian artist to have a solo presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach – this was in 2018 and I traveled to the US for this, back before Covid grounded all the planes. I loved traveling to the States and sharing my work with audiences there, so it’s great to be showing in the US again and I hope that my work can make an impact again.

What is your favorite animal? 

My dog who follows me around everywhere – she’s part dingo, but I tell everyone she’s a corgi, like the Queen’s little dogs.

Which artists, living or deceased, are you most inspired by? 

I love Henry Taylor’s work – he’s a bit of a painting hero for me. A really important early influence on my work was my father-in-law Jimmy Pompey – he was an old desert cowboy and a great figurative painter. Sidney Nolan is another artist who was an inspiration to me in the early part of my career.

 

Vincent Namatjira Q&A 2

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 2), 2021

What is your favorite movie?

It’s hard to pick just one – I like watching movies with my daughters, we just watched ‘Boyz n the Hood’. When it’s my turn to choose, I like action movies or Westerns.

If you could sit down and have dinner with three people who would they be?

Queen Elizabeth II, Henry Taylor, Jimi Hendrix

What has been the biggest accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Being the first Indigenous winner of the Archibald Prize for portrait painting.

What does Iwantja mean to you?

Iwantja art centre is like a home away from home, it’s a welcoming place. I guess for me, Iwantja means creative freedom.

Your work breaks from the traditional aboriginal dot painting practice. How was it received by the public, friends, and family at the beginning compared to how it is received today? 

I actually started out making dot paintings, that was sort of my entry point into painting. The other artists at Iwantja are really supportive of anyone trying something new – when I started out doing portraiture I would get some approval from the old fellas in the studio, who could see I was finding my own path with painting. For me, portraiture and figurative painting was a way to research and think about my family history and the complicated history for Aboriginal people in Australia – I was doing it for myself more than anyone else, but it wasn’t long before galleries and curators started taking notice. It’s all gone on from there, really.

What are some of your biggest dreams?

Really, I just want a happy, healthy life for my 3 daughters. I’d like to see better recognition and acknowledgment of Aboriginal people in Australia, and more opportunities for Indigenous people living in remote communities.

Vincent Namatjira Q&A 3

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 3), 2021

What do you like most about the work of Tiger Yaltangki and Kaylene Whiskey?

Well, both of their work puts a smile on my face. In the studio we joke around that Kaylene is Anangu Wonder Woman – she creates her own universe in her paintings  – my daughters LOVE her stuff. Tiger is a great drawer – his work is really raw and energetic. He’s got good taste in music too!

Why are you fascinated with the British Royal Family?

The Queen and the Royal family are sort of intertwined with my own family’s history. My great-grandfather Albert Namatjira was a celebrated artist and actually met Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Australia in 1954. The Royal Family are like a symbol of wealth and power, and Britain has obviously had a lot of influence over the lives of Indigenous Australians in the last 250 years. I like to try to up-end power structures in my paintings. I find the way some people revere the royal family a bit weird! I wish there was the same level of respect and recognition for this country’s Indigenous leaders, past and present. 

The film director Alfred Hitchcock made sure to appear in all of his movies, are you familiar with his work? We are curious if there is a reason why you often insert yourself into your paintings. Can you explain this to us?

The self-portrait is my way of putting myself in the narrative, bringing together past and present and combining my personal history with whatever and whoever I choose to paint.

How does it feel to know that you have fans like Fort Gansevoort on the other side of the world?

Where I live in Indulkana in Central Australia is very remote, it’s a small community in the middle of the desert. It just shows the power of the paintbrush, to know that there’s people on the other side of the world who have noticed what me and my colleagues are doing in our studio here. It makes me proud that I can connect with people and share my perspective.

 

Tiger Large

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young) Detail, 2020

Tiger Intro

Tiger Yaltangki
Courtesy of Jackson Lee

Tiger Yaltangki's vividly colored canvases, often including elements of fantasy, portray contemporary life in the Indulkana community where he resides. His artworks are directly influenced by the land itself, as well as Anangu culture, music by ACDC and Hank Williams, and a fondness for science fiction. Yaltangki's acrylic paintings on canvas are typically devoted to depicting Pitjantjatjara Mamu, malevolent spirits appearing in traditional stories that are told to children in an effort to keep them from exploring dangerous places. In his paintings on view in Spirits, Popstars, and Royals, these ancient entities are merged with Yaltangki’s cultural interests, here, the lead singer of ACDC, Angus Young. The nebulous figures take on distorted forms as upright ghosts with toothy grins, bulging eyes, and flailing limbs. Guitars are melded with traditional spiritual imagery and surrounded by layered patterns that float weightlessly in the picture plane. Yaltangki’s surrealistic works acknowledge the intricacies of modern Indigeneity and offer a nuanced language to redefine our perceptions of art in the desert.

 

Tiger Supp

Cannibal Story (still), animation by Yunkurra Billy Atkins and Sohan Ariel Hayes, 2012. 

Courtesy of Martumili Artists and Fremantle Arts Centre

Tiger’s artworks often reference ‘mamu’ (supernatural/mythical spirit beings from Anangu cultural stories) – because Tiger is largely non-verbal, he isn’t able to share much in the way of further detail about these creatures and their role in his work. With assistance from his family, Tiger has communicated that the mamu in his work are a playful, mischevious, comedic presence, rather than being overtly menacing or evil. 

"The existence of such Evil Beings is an unremarkable phenomenon, given that most religious and mythological traditions possess their own demons and supernatural entities. Monstrous beings are allegorical in nature, personifying evil ... Importantly, in Aboriginal Australia, these figures and their attendant narratives provide a valuable source of knowledge about the hazards of specific places and environments. Most important of all is their social function in terms of engendering fear and caution in young children, commensurate with the very real environmental perils that they inevitably encounter."

-- Courtesy of ‘Dreamings’ and place – Aboriginal monsters and their meanings, Christine Judith Nicholis

 

Tiger Supp 2

Angus Young of ACDC

Courtesy of Pete Still/Redferns

 

 

 

 

Yaltangki’s works are intimately connected with the music he consumes. Combining his signature style with his musical influences, the artist presents Angus Young through a mythical lens. As a result, his work yields an amalgamation of disparate cultural elements within a fantastical visual language. 

 

Tiger Q&A

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Q&A with Tiger Yaltangki 

Tiger has answered some of the questions with assistance from family members acting as interpreters.

What is your favorite food? 

Malu wipu (kangaroo tail).

What is your favorite color? 

Red.

Which artists, living or deceased, are you most inspired by?

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Alec Baker.

What is your favorite TV show?

Dr. Who and The Mighty Boosh.

Tiger Q&A 2

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

What is your favorite thing to do when you are not making art?

Listening to music.

What has been the biggest accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Showing my work ‘TIGERLAND’ at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art).

What does Iwantja mean to you?

Home.

Who are the figures in your paintings?

Kutjupa-kutjupa (different-different) – sometimes mamu (Anangu spirit beings) sometimes real people (self-portraits, family/friends, musicians), sometimes animals and dinosaurs.

 

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails

Kaylene Whiskey
Tina Turner and Dolly Parton, 2020

Acrylic on Linen
66 x 78 in.

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Kaylene Whiskey
Wonder-Kungka, 2021
Acrylic on Linen
48 x 32 in.

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Kaylene Whiskey
Wai Cat Lady, 2021
Acrylic on Linen
48 x 32 in.

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Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 1), 2021

Acrylic on Canvas
26.5 x 36 in.

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Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 2), 2021

Acrylic on Linen
26.5 x 36 in.

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Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 3), 2021

Acrylic on Linen
26.5 x 36 in.

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Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

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Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

Inquire

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

Inquire

Kaylene Whiskey
Tina Turner and Dolly Parton, 2020

Acrylic on Linen
66 x 78 in.

Kaylene Whiskey
Wonder-Kungka, 2021
Acrylic on Linen
48 x 32 in.

Kaylene Whiskey
Wai Cat Lady, 2021
Acrylic on Linen
48 x 32 in.

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 1), 2021

Acrylic on Canvas
26.5 x 36 in.

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 2), 2021

Acrylic on Linen
26.5 x 36 in.

Vincent Namatjira

The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth 3), 2021

Acrylic on Linen
26.5 x 36 in.

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

Tiger Yaltangki

AC/DC (Portrait of Angus Young), 2020

Acrylic on Linen
60 x 48 in.

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