In Collaboration with Lauraine Diggins Fine Art
“This is my country, I paint good colour, little dots. I like my painting.”
Angelina Ngal was there from the start, a pillar of the formative years of Utopia women’s painting. Formerly known as Angelina Pwerl, – her husband’s name, Pwerl(e) in Alyawarr language is the equivalent to Ngal in the Anmatyerr language – she is today referred to as as Angelina Ngal.
As did her sisters, Kathleen and Poly Ngal, Angelina began producing batiks and wooden sculptures in the mid 1980s. After taking part in the CAAMA ‘summer project’ in 1988-9, Angelina quickly adapted to painting on canvas. She was included in the first exhibition of Utopia women’s paintings, held in Alice Springs in 1990, swiftly gaining international recognition.
This appreciation and respect never dipped or wavered in the decades since, though her ascent in the Australian general public’s eye was slow, despite widespread international acclaim among important collectors and museums. Domestically, she may still be less of a household name than some of her contemporaries. Nonetheless, her work was featured at this years Art Basel Miami, as well as being slated to tour internationally as part of the Met’s The Shape of Time: Art and Ancestors of Oceania. According to Dan F Stapleton in the Financial Times (January 28 2022), Ngal remains ‘something of an insider’s secret whose work is tightly held.
‘If [Emily] Kngwarreye is the A-lister and [Daniel] Walbidi is the rising star, then Angelina Pwerle is the cult favourite – one on whom a growing number of institutions and collectors are quietly placing bets.’*
Undoubtedly, Angelina Ngal stands as one of the preeminent artists from Utopia.
The long, steady growth of the artist’s acclaim befits her art. Ngal draws from a seemingly infinite well of patience and love of country, gradually layering fields of colour upon each other, considering carefully each swath of delicate marks.
She paints her grandfather’s country, Aharlper. Originally, most of her paintings depicted the Bush Plum, which she represents through a focus of red dots into which she merges a variety of minute and painstakingly rendered coloured dots, ensuring that the tiny red dot is always central and clear.
Angelina later extended her practice, producing a range of exquisitely coloured compositions that maintain a layer of meaning related to the Bush Plum. In these, points of geography, knowledge of sacred landmarks, and memories of hunting or ceremonial business result in a subtle and textured surface that hints to the viewer of an ethereal numinous landscape.
To most of us, much of the sacred and ceremonial business is entirely or partly hidden. Still, the knowledge and reverence of country is palpable; it pulses beneath the surface of each delicate rendering of her country and Dreaming. Abstractly, the works conjure galaxies and molecules at once, the gigantic and the minute. Sometimes, standing before a work is like looking up to the skies as sheets of torrential rain bathe and nourish, drown and revive. Other times, we may be looking down at seeds and desert sand, a world of atomically small elements.
This exhibition consists of two parts, running simultaneously at Lauraine Diggins Fine Art in Melbourne, and Cooee Art Redfern in Sydney. With a longstanding relationship, the galleries represent two of the foremost and major Australian Indigenous fine art galleries.
The cross-state exhibition surveys the last two decades of Angelina Ngal’s practice, highlighting major works in her distinct styles, with a larger focus on the finely detailed later work the artist is most recognised for.
According to the artist herself, “This is a constant engagement. This is a spiritual connection to place […] My Bush Plum paintings represent the whole thing: all of Country.”*
* Dan F Stapleton for the Financial Times, January 28 2022