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Eubena Nampitjin

38 Career Overall Rank

119 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1924

  • Region: Kimberley, WA
  • Community: Balgo Hills, Balgo Hills
  • Outstation: Canning Stock Route, Well 33
  • Language: Kukatja, Wangkajungka, Mantjilytjarra, Mantjilytjarra, Purtitjarra

Artist's Portrait Courtesy of Warlayirti Artists

As time has progressed since its incorporation in 1987, the Warlayirti art centre,has become increasingly dependent upon a dwindling band of older artists able to mentor younger artists and command high prices. For a period at the end of her life Eubena was Balgo’s 'grand matriarch and number one painter' (Mahood 2005: 16), whose paintings were always in great demand both in Australia and internationally. For some time it seemed that the older she became, the more she painted, however she passed away in 2013 having left a significant artistic legacy. The large volume of gestural often fairly repetitive work she produced over the last five years of her life, and the premium prices being charged for her work on the primary market, made the secondary market a better option for those seeking distinctive works at good value. Following her death however, works could only be procured from  the secopndary market and, as a result, Eubena Nampitjin was the 17th most successful artist in 2015 with 10 of the 11 works offered finding willing buyers and her best works that year achieving her 12th and 15th highest results ever at auction.

Her best early works were painted with her husband, Wimmitji, and were largely attributed to him. This is evident from the two earliest paintings that have come on the secondary market. One in particular, painted in 1987, and offered at Deutscher~Menzies in June 2000, bore no similarity at all to the rest of her oeuvre. As her work differentiated from that of Wimmitji and she gained greater experience, her style gradually developed. We are now able to distinguish three distinctly different stylistic periods in her work.

Her early paintings, most likely under the influence of Wimmitji, are quite detailed in design and the dots, mainly in yellow and some white, remain distinguishable. Very few of Eubena’s paintings from this early period, around 1990, have come on the market. Since she painted far less per year at this stage, and many of her own paintings could have been attributed to her husband, the demand for these works outstrips supply and their prices should keep rising, especially for the more highly desirable images. Eubena’s second highest price was for a small work from this period measuring just 100 x 75 cm. Wantaru/yintarnyu 1990 sold for $52,200 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000 in Sotheby July 2004 sale.

While the images which characterise Eubena’s middle period still tend to be full of detail there is an increasing use of red and more thickly and closely painted dots as well as the introduction and occasional use of black and green. Her record result is a work created during this period, Ikara 1992 sold for $82,750 against a presale estimate of $40,000-60,000, again Sotheby in July 2004.

Eventually, in her later, and final period, the dots in her works have become so gestural and painterly in their application that they are more or less indistinguishable, and the colours used have been confined to basically red, yellow, pink and white. Eubena has also combined blue with white in a number works produced between 2007 and 2009.  These paintings, especially when large, exhibit a haptic rhythm that excites the beholder such that, even though there is quite a large supply from this period, the better images still fetch very reasonable prices both on the primary and secondary market. Eubena’s fourth to seventh highest prices at auction, were for large works from this final period. Interestingly Untitled 1999, currently her eighth highest price, held the artist’s record until eclipsed in 2004 by the work that still stands as her highest sale at auction.

In general, the more static the image and the smaller the work, the less value has been attached to it. When looking at the average price per size of her paintings, while leaving out the two highest priced early works which tend to skew the results, prices tend to be principally size related.

Eubena's fortunes at auction have been mixed since the beginning of 2004. Prior to this her career success rate was 70%. While her 2004 results saw this drop to  65% with only nine of the 16 works on offer selling, it was by far her most successful year in terms of turnover generating $214,359 in sales. Since then 109 paintings have been offered of which 64 have sold with 2010 being her most disappointing year in terms of sales clearance during which only four of 23 works found a new home, and 2015 being he most successful. With many of the failures carrying estimates above $25,000 and as high as $80,000 these results are clearly indicative of an overheated market for the works of an artist who was still actively painting. Nevertheless quality works can still command high prices. A good example was Millagudoo in the Great Sandy Desert 1995 which established the artist’s third highest record when sold at Sotheby’s in July 2009 for $45,600 (Lot 49). In 2011, four good sales come in at around the $15,000 - 25,000 price range. The three of nine works that failed to sell all carried estimates far above this. Fifteen works were offered in 2012 and nine of these sold at an average of $8,956 each, though none of these etered he 10 best results to date.. Nevertheless she was the 18th most successful artist of that year against her career standing at 38th.

 As with the work of other first generation Balgo painters, Eubena’s early works are undervalued given their historical importance and aesthetic quality. This is unlikely to last n ow that she has passed away and works in the primary market have dried up. Just as 1970s Papunya works were replete with ceremonial knowledge and intimate detail, so too were 1980s Balgo Hills paintings. Over time, as the market becomes more knowledgeable, Eubena Nampitjin will be recognised as the ‘great matriarch’ of an artistic legacy that spread during her lifetime, from the Great Sandy Desert and the Canning Stock Route throughout the southern reaches of the Kimberley.  

Eubena Nampitjin - Ikara 1992

Ikara 1992
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 26/07/2004 for $82,750.00
Size: 180 x 120 cm

Eubena Nampitjin - Kinyu

Kinyu
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney on 20/10/2008 for $30,000.00
Size: 180 x 150 cm

Eubena Nampitjin - Kinyu, 2002

Kinyu, 2002
Sold by Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney on 21/07/2004 for $26,400.00
Size: 180 x 120 cm

Born at Yalantijirri near Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route, Eubena Nampitjin moved to the Catholic mission that had been established 5 years earlier near the northern reaches of Lake Gregory in 1948. In 1962 the mission moved to Wirrimanu (Balgo Hills) where there was a more permanent water supply and thereafter became a melting pot of tribal peoples drawn from the cusp of the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts. The Wangkajunga, Walmajarri, Kukata, Walpiri, Ngarti and Djaru people congregated there as life became more and more difficult on their traditional land.

While the people of Balgo Hills heard of the emergence of the Papunya art movement from Pintupi, who visited the mission to take part in ceremony in 1971, their own art movement did not begin until the mid 1980’s. The confluence of up to 10 different Aboriginal traditions in this one community resulted in a degree of flexibility in the practice of law, art and ritual. Since many of the older generation left the desert as mature adults the majority of their paintings relate strongly to their land and are expressed from a personal or experiential perspective. Eubena did not begin painting until the second art coordinator, Michael Rae, extended the opportunity to paint beyond the Adult Education Centre to the camps that had established themselves around the fringes of the mission. Canvases were delivered and collected on a weekly rotation and it was common for husbands and wives to complete canvases together. This was certainly the case with Eubena Nampitjin who developed her aesthetic alongside her second husband, Wimmitji Tjapangarti. They began collaborating in 1988 and their art flourished under Rae’s guidance. Though Wimmitji and Eubena initially worked in earthy brown and red toning with areas of white dotting and lines, by 1989 they began experimenting with soft floral patterns transforming the complex dotting and compositions that characterise their work in to delicately beautiful and opulent works. Their early works portrayed Dreaming sites, country, and ancestral travels in the most intimate cartographic detail and are, to this day, the very finest paintings that have ever emanated from the community. Whether these paintings were attributed to Wimmitji or Eubena was always simply a matter of chance. Canvases were delivered and names were transcribed on to the back prior to handing them to the artists. They were never attributed to both husband and wife. As the art centre flourished and demand for their paintings grew Wimmitji began painting less and Eubena increasingly painted on her own. After the death of her daughter Ema Gimme Nungerayai in 1993, Eubena returned to Well 33 and did not paint again until encouraged to return to Balgo Hills two years later. From that time on she painted alone with larger, freer dots and a more gestural style executed with a palate of red, yellow and pink. In time these late career works became more akin to finger painting with fluid brushstrokes and only the occasional intimate section actually dotted with a stick.

While Balgo’s physical isolation has conferred the space to evolve a distinct and unique artistic style, Eubena’s own separation from her homeland has manifested as an art of absence, an act of homage, which has crystallised the poignancy of her country in her works. The sense of raw energy and spontaneity in her work with her trademark use of vibrant colour, bold patterning, and rough and ready handling creates a 'extraordinary sense of presence,' that overrides any connotations of the work as an object of anthropological significance and invites the viewer 'to appreciate pictures for their immediate visual impact as works of contemporary art' (McDonald 1995). 

 Eubena’s art has transported her 'way into her country, re-inhabiting it brush mark by brush mark, like walking or breathing' (Mahood 2005: 18). She perpetually renews this sense of country, tirelessly sitting in her customary position on the floor of the art centre, painting for hours on end. She states 'I like painting from my heart … I like to do paintings, big ones, to keep my spirit strong. Really good. I don’t get tired doing big ones, sometimes I do them in one day. My spirit keeps me strong' (cited in Alexander 2004: V1).   

Profile References

Alexander, G. 2004. Balgo 4-04. Melbourne. Vega Press.
Cowan, J. 1999. Balgo: New Directions. Australia. Craftsman House.
McDonald, John. 25 Feb 1995. Bold Balgo is within Coo-ee. Australia. Sydney Morning Herald.
McCulloch, Susan. 13 Jan 1996. Colour in the Sand. Australia. The Australian, Weekend Review.
Mahood, K. June 2005. Under the Skin. Australia. Artlink 25(2).
Brodie, A. M (ed). . 1997. Stories: eleven aboriginal artists. Australia. Craftsman House.

Eubena Nampitjin - Ikara 1992

Ikara 1992
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 26/07/2004 for $82,750.00
Size: 180 x 120 cm

Eubena Nampitjin - Piritjarri 2003

Piritjarri 2003
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 24/07/2007 for $31,200.00
Size: 180 x 120 cm

Eubena Nampitjin - Kaliyangku Waterhole 1992

Kaliyangku Waterhole 1992
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 25/07/2005 for $25,175.00
Size: 120 x 60 cm

Sites

Canning Stock Route , Well 33, Lake Gregory, Great Sandy Desert , Tanami Desert

Subjects

Rockholes, Soak Waters, Bush Food , Goanna, Moon, Dingo, Two Men (Wati Kutjara), Kangaroo, Bush Tomato , Karnaputta, Mouse

Medium

Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen and Canvas, Printmaking

Regional Map

Note: This map is a representation and not accurate. Some sites are sacred and therefore not shown.

Market Performance

Career Totals

AIAM100 Rank
38
AIAM100 Rating
3.8970
Sold/Offered
107/185
Clearance Rate
58%
Average Price
$12,644
Total Price
$1,352,950
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.1955 0.3187 0.1732 0.4445 1.3890 1.1404 0.7389 0.8071 0.9900 1.3169 0.6996 0.6852 0.8517 0.0957 0.3688 1.0358 0.1330
2/3 4/6 2/3 4/4 9/16 10/13 7/10 7/11 8/15 12/17 4/23 6/9 9/15 1/6 5/10 10/11 2/5
$9,556 $6,350 $7,500 $12,350 $23,818 $13,005 $11,143 $13,295 $15,313 $12,043 $30,589 $13,040 $8,956 $9,150 $5,440 $10,729 $4,422
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Ikara 1992

sale price: $82,750.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 75 date: 26/07/2004
180 x 120 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
2

Kinyu, 2007

sale price: $60,000.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett , Melbourne  lot: 23 date: 06/10/2010
179.5 x 149.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
3

Wantaru/yintarnyu 1990

sale price: $52,200.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 63 date: 26/07/2004
100 x 75 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
4

Millagudoo in the Great Sandy Desert

sale price: $45,600.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 49 date: 20/07/2009
181 x 120 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
5

Piritjarri 2003

sale price: $31,200.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 60 date: 24/07/2007
180 x 120 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
6

Kinyu

sale price: $30,000.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney  lot: 136 date: 20/10/2008
180 x 150 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
7

Kinyu, 2000

sale price: $30,000.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett , Melbourne  lot: 31 date: 24/03/2010
119.5 x 179.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
8

Untitled 1999

sale price: $28,700.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney  lot: 217 date: 29/07/2003
180 x 120.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
9

Kinyu, 2002

sale price: $26,400.00
auction: Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney  lot: 42 date: 21/07/2004
180 x 120 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
10

Kaliyangku Waterhole 1992

sale price: $25,175.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 92 date: 25/07/2005
120 x 60 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Available Artworks

Sorry There are currently no artworks available for this artist.