A Love Story
By Roslyn Premont, Posted Feb 3, 2021
Continuing our journey into the extraordinary world created by Linda Syddick Napaltjarri… extracts by her partner Russell Sim…
Chapter 2 - Linda and Russell met in 1988 at Morrisoak town camp. He often went there with an Aboriginal health liaison officer. He was invited there one night when there was a disco set up and met Linda.
I had developed a special friendship with Russell and Linda during the many years of working closely with them. Gallery Gondwana was committed to purchasing everything that Linda painted. We didn’t want to make judgement on what we expected to see from this exuberant artist but rather support her in whatever she wanted to explore.
With a prescient mindset, I had a habit of making notes and jottings for future references, a bit like all the writing that Russell left for me. One set of notes is the following that I wrote in 1996…
Linda and Russell met in 1988 at Morrisoak town camp. He often went there with an Aboriginal health liason officer. He was invited there one night when there was a disco set up and met Linda. He said they became partners pretty well straight away. The thing that struck me throughout many of our conversations was his commitment and his attachment to Linda. He said openly one morning in the kitchen over coffee that without Linda he wouldn’t have any reason left to live. He sees them as a perfect match.
At Linda and Russells home in Tarlee. When in performance, Linda would wear her Ininti Beads.
In 1996, Russell remarked that although he was to turn 70 in a few months, he is a young 70 years and that his family all live to ripe old ages. Therefore in years, Linda and he were perfectly matched as Linda is almost 60 years old (born 1937). He said we shouldn’t have to spend much time on earth without one another! In painting terms he gives all the credit to Linda, where as you and I know, the subtlety and magic comes from the combination. It occurred to me that he sees his helping Linda a bit like the old painters find it quite acceptable that their wives assist in the dotting of their works.
Linda was quite vocal and talked a lot about the early days (I recorded 6 tapes). I will need a linguist however to get to the bottom of a lot of it. It depends on how involved this book will be. It may be concentrate on imagery with her interpretation of the works plus interviews from curators and collectors, we won’t have to delve very deeply into the past but if we have funding to pay a linguist all the better. She speaks 6 languages and one of the tapes is her talking in each of one.
It was quite amusing. On Monday night she was very relaxed and performed what appeared to be like short pieces of theatre in each language, one after the other. She then sang corroboree… a lot of women’s “singing up” business. She then took great delight in sitting listening to herself with the headsets on, making comments out loud like “that’s right! true way”.
We would often visit each other’s home, whether in Tarlee (near the Barossa, South Australia), in Port Pirie (at a friend’s place in South Australia) or in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. They would be very relaxed affairs. Linda appeared to be in another place when she sang and danced. (Photos from the personal collection of Roslyn Premont.)
What a character! I need to gently nurture more history from Russell. He was married with children apparently but is very guarded to talk about this in front of Linda. It would seem his life in this regional Victorian town of 18,000 inhabitants has left him with a dread of small towns and the bigotry and gossip that exists.
Whilst this work is title "Lake MacKay - our home", for Linda there is another layer of meaning with the two people and "their home".