animate void: gaps and gorges
walls of the narrow Standley Chasm Angkale are a popular subject
for many visiting artists. It was a familiar part of Albert Namatjira's
country and he painted it many times.
was well aware that it is only when the sun is directly overhead that
the iron-rich walls of the gorge are in full light. He depicted them in
different lights and from different angles. In some paintings flickering
shadows appear to unite background and foreground, where the red-brown
walls of the gorge and the purple rocky face behind, fill the frame. Yet,
in Standley Chasm c.1942-49, which introduces the skyline, a different
viewpoint establishes a separation between these entities. Light floods
into the further recesses of the gorge, and the red walls appear almost
like curtains on a stage, framing an inner enclosure.
also painted Standley Chasm as it is approached from a vast distance.
From this viewing point, it is seen simply as one of the numerous gaps
that are a characteristic feature of the MacDonnell Ranges Tywerentye.
Other locations that he repeatedly painted there were Simpson's Gap Runutjirba
and Heavitree Gap Ntaripe.
historian and landscape writer John Brinkerhoff Jackson, believes that
'no landscape can be comprehended unless we perceive it as an organisation
of space: [and] ask ourselves who owns it or uses the spaces, how they
were created and how they change'. His words are particularly relevant
when considering possible interpretations of Namatjira's paintings which
depict country that is both a 'sight' (formal landscape) and a 'site'