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Important Australian Art / Rover Thomas (circa 1926-1998) Rover's Country (hills, creeks and rock hole), 1990

Lot 16
Rover Thomas
(circa 1926-1998)
Rover's Country (hills, creeks and rock hole), 1990
23 August 2022, 19:00 AEST

AU$70,000 - AU$100,000

Rover Thomas (circa 1926-1998)

Rover's Country (hills, creeks and rock hole), 1990
natural earth pigments and gum on canvas
90.0 x 180.0cm (35 7/16 x 70 7/8in).


Mary Macha, Perth
Private Collection, Perth, acquired from the above in 1990
Mary Macha, Perth
Private collection, Perth, acquired from the above in May 1996

Painted in the same year that Rover Thomas was selected to represent Australia at the 44th Venice Biennale, Rover's Country (hills, creeks and rock hole), 1990 is a quintessential example of the artist's inextricable connection to the land. The extreme upheaval and displacement that Aboriginal stockmen and their families experienced in the Kimberley during the late 1960s deepened his connection further and Thomas himself has 'become a part of the story of the
country....the land becomes the subject, theme and witness of events
on both the epic supernatural and the intimate human scales'.1

Thomas flattens the picture plane, focusing on distinct geographic features which, in this work, Mary Macha identifies in an accompanying diagram as four hills in the bottom register with rockhole and creeks above. As Judith Ryan describes, 'The work of Rover Thomas, crisp and stark, stands in marked contrast to [the] lateral views of the Gija [such as Jack Britten and Queenie
McKenzie], with their crowded imagery...there are none of the bands of hills or silhouetted trees that enrich Gija artists' perspectives.'2 This technique, as well as his delineation of the features in dots of brilliant white pigment, gives his work a powerful directness.

Rover's Country (hills, creeks and rock hole) marks a transition in Thomas' materials, adopting a water-soluble gum from the Kurrajong tree which was commonly used in Kalumburu.3 This stabilised his pigments and gave his works a more even surface than his previous body of work using bush gum. Thomas appreciated the mat finish that this new gum was able to provide the natural pigments, evident in the delicate, subtle surface of the present work.

Francesca Cavazzini

1. Wally Caruana in Rover Thomas, et al, Roads Cross: the paintings of Rover Thomas, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1994, p.3
2. Judith Ryan and Kim Akerman, Images of Power: Aboriginal Art from the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1993, p. 44
3. Judith Ryan, online introduction to Rover Thomas: I want to Paint exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 3 June – 17 August 2003

Additional information