Thursday, March 8, 2012


One of my most cherished possessions is this simple painting, Three Bush Birds, 2000, by the late Patsy Lulpunda (Anguburra) (Worrora culture) (c. 1898–November 2000), who lived her whole life in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. I bought it from an exhibition of Patsy’s work at the Kintolai Gallery in Hindley Street, Adelaide, in May 2001, when at around the same date my friend Philip Fimmano purchased another bush-bird painting, admittedly the better of the two. He and it are now in Paris. According to the Gallery, it was upon attaining the great age of 100, when shortly afterwards in 1999 she received from The Queen an official letter of congratulations, that the artist was stirred into taking up painting for the first time in her life. Thereafter she produced a body of about fifty paintings before Patsy died soon afterwards in November 2000. Immediately after I bought the picture I wrote to The Queen, explaining this remarkable turn of events, and in due course received a kind acknowledgement from the Hon. Mary Morrison, Lady-in-Waiting, dated Buckingham Palace, May 25, 2001. As far as I can recall, Patsy’s work consists mostly of sprightly bush birds and camp dogs, about which she obviously knew plenty, and in this case I was and remain tickled by the lively interaction of the two on the right: surprised, possibly, quizzical certainly, and I imagine definitely rowdy in the cool of the early evening. A polished draftswoman Patsy was not, but anyone who has encountered these noisy creatures in the Great Outback cannot fail to recognize them here. Patsy painted straight onto unstretched canvases laid flat on the ground, using water-soluble synthetic polymer paint, and I possess a photograph of her painting this one, a satisfactory hedge against any future suggestion that it might be a forgery. May she rest in peace.

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