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Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri

Rockholes near Olgas - 2008

synthetic polymer on Belgian linen
180.0 x 180.0 cm
Price Realised: $55,000.00



Watiyawanu Artists, Mt Liebig


Peta Appelyard Fine Art, Alice Springs

Private Collection NT

Bill Whiskey's country lay to the north of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), hidden in some of the most arid and uncompromising land on the continent. From the late 1880's police were posted to protect the interests of the advancing pastoralists in this region, and they pursued those tribesmen who killed cattle to protect their waterholes far into the 'back country'. They were tracked, chained and taken for trial in Port Augusta. As a climate of fear descended, Anangu (Western Desert people) left their country for the relative safety of mission-run ration stations. The country to the west and southwest of the MacDonnell Ranges was gradually depopulated, and during the 1920s, a period of prolonged drought saw Anangu gravitate to outposts established by Lutheran evangelists on the margins of the desert. Bill Whiskey and his family lived for a time at Areyonga, before moving further north to settle at Amunturrngu (Mount Liebig), then an outstation of Papunya. He chose not to participate in Paintings until 2005, when in his mid 80s, he took up the brush.


While Rock Holes and Country Near The Olgas is a compelling work depicting his country, it is intentionally cryptic. Specific information about the Dreaming is purposefully suffused in fields of ambiguous dots. Water places, such as Pirupa Akla are marked by sets of concentric circles, their dazzling presence representing their powerful life-giving significance, rather than their actual size. The actions of the White Cockatoo and Crow ancestors are encrypted as dotted patches that reference topographic features associated with the Dreaming. The minimal depiction in this particular work conveys the attenuated distance between landmarks in Whiskey's country, where isolated water places are concealed among swathes of vegetation. Remaining true to the conduct of his ancestors, who had kept their distance from explorers, Whiskey protects the secrets of his country behind the mirage of heat, re