Polly Napangardi Watson
Polly emerged as a significant painter very early in her painting career, which began in 1987. She has been represented in major international exhibitions since 1990 with her works acquired by public and private collections around the world.
DOB: c 1930
Place of Birth: Mt Doreen (west of Yuendumu), NT
Significant Country: Mt Doreen
Polly Napangardi Watson (also known as Polly Napangati) is a Warlpiri artist who worked in an inventive and dynamic style unlike that of any other artist from the Yuendumu region. She emerged as a significant painter very early in her painting career, which began in 1987. She has been represented in major international exhibitions since 1990 and her works have been acquired by public and private collections both in Australia and internationally.
Polly’s backgrounds of ochre tones and squiggly lines of the kurruwarri (the iconography of her dreaming) are in keeping with the traditional Warlpiri style of painting. But what sets her apart as a contemporary artist is her intricate layering of dots, which create shimmering surfaces reminiscent of pointalist painters. Her delicate works contain a minimalist iconography representing an aerial view of the land.
Her subject includes Jungunpa (marsupial mouse), Ngurlu (Black seed), Wataki (Wild Desert Orange) and other important Jukurrpa (Dreamings) from her traditional country that are the central themes of her paintings. Her kurrawarri hover and float above the ground of her paintings.
As a senior custodian of Mount Doreen (her country), north-west of Alice Springs in Central Australia, she has a responsibility to ensure that the knowledge associated with the ceremonies, song cycles and inherited designs are passed on to her nieces according to traditional law.
Born in the early 1930’s at Mt Doreen station, Polly led a traditional life in the bush. She worked in the coalmines as a young girl and then as a domestic servant on Mount Doreen cattle station. Polly has witnessed many of the dramatic social and environmental changes Aboriginal society has undergone over the last 50 years. Her first contact with European society was as a young girl when her family was dispossessed of their country and moved onto a cattle station. From that time on, she and her family were shunted from place to place as part of the Government assimilation process. She came to Alice Springs to live in the mid 1980’s and now resides with the Hidden Valley community.
Taught by her cousin Rene Robinson, Polly took up painting around 1984 when she was in her late 50’s, being one of many aboriginal senior women who started painting in the later stages of their life. Producing a body of contemporary and innovative works at the close of the 20th century, Polly won the Centralian Advocate Art Award in 1990, and in 1991 did a major commission for an exhibition at the Australian Embassy in Paris.
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