Two feisty friends, Lily Hargraves and Lorna Fencer, both senior Warlpiri women of striking force, will go down in Art History as power painters drenched in cultural knowledge. Explosively generous with their love of land and the nourishment and rules within it, each artwork these peers produced affirmed the artists as steadfast culture keeper-teachers who switched paint into power-boards.
Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurra Hargraves and Yulurlu Lorna Napurrurla Fencer created not only extraordinary bodies of artwork but remained sharp survivors fine-tuned to the hunt. Regularly bringing back food on gathering forays, each would compete with the other to create beautiful works of art, and for a sale or two when our Palya Art Tours arrive in the community.
Lorna Yulurlu Fencer is sadly no longer with us, in body. Titled ‘Yulurlu’, a retrospective exhibition of her work, curated by Margie West, was toured by RMIT in 2012. I live with Lorna’s ‘Yam Dreaming’, an apparently previously unloved work (2001) retrieved from dusty shelving where it lay rolled and squashed trapping a furry animal inside with the only trace left being hair and bone. Paying Warnayaka Art Centre – the artists’ owned Cooperative, situated in Lajamanu, Northern Tanami Desert – for the canvas and then conservation in Melbourne, I’ve had the privilege to absorb this painting in Palya Art’s Darwin office since. It looks out, bright and glorious, and I regularly ‘plug-in’ to it for a charge of energy.
Above is a painting by Lily Nungarrayi Hargraves open for viewing in Melbourne. At nearly 90 now, Lily is finally being recognised for her unique expression; people are ‘seeing’ her. On our last visit to Warnayaka Arts Ms. Hargraves brought out her clap sticks and started dancing and singing her painting. She then sat down and used the artwork as a drum, thundering out her being, everyone in the room joining in the rhythm.