|Gulpilil, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 41x30 cm SOLD|
For many years, along with countless other Australians, i have admired the work of Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. This goes all the way back to my young adulthood when i saw his mesmerizing performance in Walkabout (1971). He was just 15 years old. You can see the trailer HERE or the whole movie HERE .
His other 27 film credits include
Nick Cave's tense and explosive The Proposition (2005) (see a clip HERE); the eerie The Tracker (2002), such an atmospheric film (see a clip HERE); the moving The Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)(see a trailer HERE); the enigmatic and spine tingling The Last Wave (1977) (see a trailer HERE).
Gulpilil's personal story is a mix of great achievement and an endemic and gnawing sense of loss that corrodes and erodes himself, as well as his people. I don't wish to open up the issues around the historical, economic, health, legal, and social life of our indigenous Australians.
Suffice it to say, it is a national disgrace, despite the efforts of many according to their lights at the time and today. Western paternalism, materialism,avarice, cruelty and hardness of heart have more than played their parts too. The poverty, life-expectancy, social break-down, and substance abuse among many (though by no means all) Aboriginal communities remains appalling.
So why isn't David living in a swish Sydney habour-side apartment with the millions he has made from his films?
Firstly because his set of values are not those of Western consumer society. His obligation is to family and tribe. So that is where he chooses to live, even if in fairly squalid conditions.
Secondly, what millions? I can't help feeling he has been stitched up by film companies who appear to sometimes have exploited his talent for a mere retainer. He makes a few thousand. They make the millions plus.
Gulpilil stradles two worlds and can no longer be at home in either of them. That is his tragedy. But that is also the pain that fuels his art. That is the story that is etched on his expressive and majestic face.
David Guliplil is friends with the indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi . If you wish to peek into the emotional and cultural space Gulpilil inhabits, listen as Western and indigenous culture and language meet in their song One Blood.
"Can you hear it
it's all around you
the beating of heart
waking up the land
the beating of a heart - one blood."
When i listen to this song i hear an ancient people tell me:
We and the animals are one.
We and the land are one.
We and and all mankind are one.
One blood. All life is one blood.
The painting at the top of this post was commissioned from me for a woman whose Aboriginal heritage led her to deeply admire Gulpilil . She had seen the painting below when it was in an exhibition for sale and had regretted not buying it. So a friend of hers employed me to paint the second one, above, just for her.
|Gulpilili, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 41x30 cm SOLD|
But this one evolved from a previous version i had painted earlier in 2007, seen below. The hand is featured because i imagined Gulpilil as not only a contemporary celebrity but also as a timeless figure at one with the ancient hand prints and stencils in Aboriginal rock art that i recall seeing in Arnhem Land when i visited the Kakadu rock paintings in caves that had already been inhabited 20,000 years ago.
Gulpilil's Cave, watercolor on paper, 41x30 cm
But even this grew out of an earlier work still. Or maybe better just called a doodle (below) rather than anything as lofty as a 'work'. Early in 2007 i had read an account of David Gulpilil's life. And i remembered him from Walkabout. I had seen some of his dance performance.
And so in a moment of reverie i doodled my first Gulpilil, he in his dreaming, i in mine.
|Gulpilil's Dreaming, ink and watercolour on paper, 41x30 cm|
Dreaming, or The Dreaming, has a special meaning for Aboriginal people. It is not only a personal and group spiritual communion but also a connection to The Dreamtime. It is not a day-dreaming or wishful thinking but rather an contemplative and meditative insight that produces narratives of totemic power. They dream existence into being.
I believe that as creative artists we should have our Dreaming too.
We should cultivate a numinous place not visible to the naked eye, a place that we strive to visit, to inhabit, and allow to inhabit us.
It is the mission of creative artists to make the Dreaming visible to all humanity so they may know there is more to life than shopping.