Seeing the centre
The art of Albert Namatjira 1902–1959

Introduction | Discoveries | Light | Transformations | Animate | Sights | Intimate | Saplings | Looking | Bibliography | Gallery of works

Transformations: light begets colour

The capacity of light to flatten, fragment, illuminate or hide the forms that comprise the land, as perceived by the eye at unique moments in time, were not the only qualities that inspired Albert Namatjira. Solid matter that we know to be red, brown or green is seen by the eye as mauve, purple or blue when viewed from a distance. The steep rays of the noonday sun falling directly into a narrow gorge can change subtle shadows into a vibrant orange within a matter of minutes. Sunrise and sunset ignite solid matter into fire.

A feature of a number of paintings from the 1940s is Namatjira's decision to close in on the scene so that the composition comprises large shapes of pure colour. This is evident in Twa-tarra c 1938-39 and Western MacDonnells c 1945. All were painted outdoors over several days during brief moments of specific light conditions.

Quarraitnana, Finke River (Organ Pipes) c 1945-53 and Love's Creek, South (Love's Creek, MacDonnell Ranges) c 1945-53 are later examples, where the sun not only generates transformations in colour but also highlights unique geological formations to create linear patterns and rhythmic forms.

Albert Namatjira Kwariitnama (Organ Pipes) c 1945-53 Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation

Banner: Albert Namatjira Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges c 1957-59 (detail) National Gallery of Australia, Canberra