Artist KIKI SMITH discusses works from the national collection that inspire, move or intrigue her.
Rain spirit 1962
I was very moved by Grahame King’s Rain spirit, as it seems to embody the vertical movement of rain to the earth and the spirit of the landscape. It is black and brown, and as I had just been in Marfa, Texas, bombarded by rain and dust storms, I felt the intensity of those two elements active in the air — it felt very much alive to me. While art can illustrate nature, it can also have its qualities embedded in the work.
Gija/Kija people, 1925–2006
The Holy Spirit in our Land (white owl of the Kimberley) 2005
The graphic qualities and directness of Hector Jandany’s The Holy Spirit in our Land (white owl of the Kimberley) are very striking. I was surprised to find it was made from natural earth pigments applied to the canvas with a binder. The owl is something I repeatedly find present in my life. This one is very wonderful with its brooding clouds.
The good woman’s spirit praying in the waterfall 1892
In Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s The good woman’s spirit praying in the waterfall, I am attracted to the energy of the water encompassing her body. In the print, there are three different portrayals of water: one cascading, one being diverted by the figure, and one of the sea, coming to the shore with waves lapping. The woman praying has her modest feet perched on a rock. A woman surrounded by water is an image that I continually try to address.
Kuninjku (Eastern Kunwinjku) people, 1916–1987
The spirit woman 1980–81
I was immediately attracted to Peter Marralwanga’s The spirit woman. I have no way of knowing anything about it, but I was very moved by the physical articulation of her body, in its declaration, and that her vagina was so clearly displayed. She also has some aspects of a fish in the fin‑like protrusions that emerge from her body — in the same way that Marralwanga’s Yawkyawk spirit 1980–81 resembles a fish but is very human.
Art & Artists
The Holy Spirit in our Land (white owl of the Kimberley)
The good woman's spirit praying in the waterfall
The spirit woman