Bill Whiskey’s bold bright painting style reflected his indomitable spirit. He did not begin painting on canvas until entering the last four years of his life at 84 years of age, by which time he was widely renowned as a powerful healer and keeper of sacred knowledge. His paintings, the first to depict the major Dreaming story and the creation of major sites throughout his country, are imbued with authority and steeped in traditional knowledge.
His subjects included the mythic battle related in the Cockatoo Dreaming that occurred at his birthplace, Pirupa Alka (Rock holes near the Olgas – Kata Tjuta and Ayers Rock – Uluru). During the battle, white feathers were scattered about and the landscape became indented by the entangled combatants crashing to the ground repeatedly. Subterranean streams filled these impressions with water and a circular amphitheatre was created by the sweep of wings. Today, a large, central, glowing white rock signifies the fallen cockatoo, still sipping the life-giving water from the sacred pools. Colourful blues, yellows, and reds, always tempered by cockatoo-white, represent the wildflowers that grow in profusion after rain. In keeping with the depiction of Dreaming stories throughout the Western Desert, the mythic and numinous is inherent within the sacred geography.
In this painting, 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.