Kitty Napanangka Simon is a dedicated artist with a distinctive, singular aesthetic. Her paintings – at first denounced by senior men for straying too far from the traditional idiom – have excited discriminating curators and collectors since her first solo exhibition at Cooee Art in 2013, winning admirers both inside and outside her tight knit Warlpiri community. The paintings appear to be grounded in abstraction, yet it would be hard to conceive of more descriptive visual articulations of ‘country’ in Australian Aboriginal desert art. Through the intersection of colour and free-form shapes and dots scattered in strings across the canvas, Simon describes in detail the desert flowers, salt encrustations and natural features of Mina Mina, the home of her sacred Dreaming in the south- western region of the Tanami Desert.
She is is a keeper of women’s law. Most of her paintings depict Mina Mina, a sacred place for women’s business at Lake Mackay. As Kitty moves her brush across the canvas, she chants rhythmically her ancient song, part of her clan’s story still of profound contemporary relevance. Her vivid paintings are described as “Mina Mina Jukurrpa” or “Mina Mina Dreaming”, but Dreaming is in some ways an inadequate English translation of the word Jukurrpa.
Kitty painted her first works in the late 1980s before hanging up her paint brushes to focus on raising a family. She took up painting once more in 2008, by which time she had four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Experimenting with various styles, she eventually adopted a loose, immediate approach to painting and embraced a distinctly individual style.The works representing yawulyu (women’s ritual designs) employ optic whites and an array of pastels in large sweeps of tone-on-tone painting to capture the feeling and colour of desert flowers and the natural features of the surrounding salt plains at Mina Mina, 600 kilometres to the south of Lajamanu.
In 2020, Napanangka lost her sight due to cataracts and Gallery Director, Leven, through Cooee Art, paid for her surgery. After regaining her sight, Napanangka Simon’s painting practice has dwindled and this will be one of her first major forays back into painting with a renewed confidence in her exceptional talent.
Kitty likes to paint among other women, and they talk and laugh as they work. Beginning at the centre, she explains, the black represents an area burned by fire. The three white objects over the black are digging sticks, normally used by women to dig up yams. Blue on either side of the sticks is the lake. The pink strokes are female land, and white is salt.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBTIONS:
2016 Making Memories, Cooee Art, Sydney, Australia
2015 Only Women Dance Till Dawn, New York, Cooee Art and Pollon Art
2013 Mina Mina, Cooee Art, Sydney, Australia
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2023 country x Country, Cooee Art Leven, NSW
Embrace Equity, Cooee Art, NSW
2022 Painting Words, Cooee Art, NSW
Women In Colour, Manning Regional Gallery, NSW
2021 Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, NSW
Cooee: Come Here, Cooee Art, NSW
2020 20|20 Artists from Over Australia, Cooee Art, NSW
Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, NSW
2019 Kitty Simon and the Ladies of Lajamanu, Cooee Art, NSW
Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, Carriageworks NSW
2015 June Tunbridge Gallery, Cottesloe, WA
2014 Masterpiece Art Fair, Chelsea, England