Understanding Colour

The artists represented at Kate Owen Gallery have a magnificent sense of colour. They instinctively use original and vital colour in a balanced and harmonious way on the canvas. Most of us, however, are not so lucky. Sometimes we feel that we have a colour scheme for the home or office, but often, however hard we try, it just doesn’t come off or doesn’t feel ‘complete’. We can also get stuck in a rut and not know how to stop repeating much the same colour scheme every time.

Being able to understand the terms and processes with colour will help you knowledgeably communicate your vision. So in this article, we’re going to give you a crash course on colour! Hopefully it will help you use colour more adventurously and with confidence. You may well disagree with some of my ideas and conclusions. Please blame this on the fact that colour appreciation is personal and subjective; so much a matter of personal taste and feeling, and I can only state what I myself feel to be true. 

The whole of this blog article is concerned with colour, but there can be art without it. The lack of colour does not make a master drawing less a work of art. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, possibly the most profound painting of the last century, is in black and white. View our range of black and white artworks here.

The Basics:

Colour is perception. Our eyes see something, and data sent from our eyes to our brains tells us its a certain colour. Objects reflect light in different combinations and translate them into the phenomenon we call colour.

Colour theory is both the science and art of colour. It explains how humans perceive colour; how colours mix, match or claw; the subliminal (and often cultural) messages colours communicate; and the methods used to replicate colour. 

Physically, unless we are colour blind, we all see the same things in the same way and in the identical colours. The human eye may be similar to a photographic camera, but our brains are not dark-rooms. What we make up there of visual impressions is personal and has only subjective meaning.

The Colour Wheel:

The colour wheel consists of three primary colours (red, yellow, blue), three secondary colours (colours created when primary colours are mixed: green, orange, purple) and six tertiary colours (colours made from primary and secondary colours, such as blue-green or red-violet)

 

Draw a line through the centre of the wheel, and you’ll separate the warm colours (reds, oranges, yellows) from the cool colours (blues, green, purples).

Warm Colours are generally associated with energy, brightness and action, whereas cool colours are often identified with calm, peace and serenity.

When you recognise that colour has a temperature, you can understand how choosing all warm or cool colours in your home or office can impact the mood or ‘feel’ of the space. Take for example these two artworks by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa:

  

While the artwork to the left beautifully compliments the feature wall in the background, I would say the overall ‘feel’ of the space is cooler, as opposed to the piece on the right which adds warmth to the space.

Simply put, tints, tones and shadows are variations of colours on the colour wheel (used by adding white, black or grey to the colour). Colours mixed with white change tone and intensity. As the digital hang below of Freddy Purla’s artwork ‘Grandmothers Country’ reveals, a lack of brilliant colour does not mean a lack of varied colour.


Just because you have a neutral décor, doesn’t mean you can’t add a splash of [subtle] colour!

Using the colour wheel, designers develop colour schemes. Some of the most common terms you may have heard are:

Complimentary Colours - complementary colours are opposites on the colour wheel. Here’s an example of an artwork by Patricia Baker where she has used the complimentary colours red and green:

Because there’s a sharp contrast between the two colours, this piece really pops!

Analogus Colours - analogue colour sit next to each other on the colour wheel - red, orange and yellow for example. When creating an analogous colour scheme: one colour will dominate, one will support and another will accent.

Triadic Colours - triadic colours are evenly spaced around the colour wheel and tend to be bright and dynamic. There is a lovely visual contrast whilst simultaneously being harmonious.


Helen McCarthy Tyalmuty using tridadic colours of orange, green and purple.

 Messages Colours Communicate:

Most of us have a favourite colour or prefer some colours over others. This is because it can affect our moods so we surround ourselves in the colours that have a positive impact on our mood.

Wassily Kandinsky, a renowned Russian painter and art theorist, was one of the first pioneers of colour theory and believed the following colours communicate the following qualities:

  • Yellow – warm, exciting, happy
  • Blue – deep, peaceful, supernatural
  • Green – peace, stillness, nature
  • White – harmony, silence, cleanliness
  • Black – grief, dark, unknown
  • Red – glowing, confidence, alive
  • Orange – radiant, healthy, serious

What do you think? Don’t forget, colour also has cultural significance, political associations, and religious links.

 Colour inspired by surroundings:

We live in a colourful world, a world that acts as the perfect inspirational trigger for design. The rugged beauty of the Australian landscape can be re-created in even the most urban surroundings. Draw inspiration from the unique shades of native elements, such as the flame-orange hues of the desert, olive greens of the eucalyptus trees, or dusty pinks that pop up at the sky at twilight. Combine these punchy shades with complimentary earth tones to bring warmth and richness to even the simplest interiors.

Blues and greens are an intrinsic part of Australia’s diverse bush environment, so why not replicate this palette in an urban residence? Here, the soothing olive greens of melaleucas, and grey-blue of gum trees bring a little of the bush into the city. 

 Dulcie Long Pula’s Bush Yam Leaves sits beautifully in this loft apartment.

Composition Considerations:

It is impossible to speak about colour and completely ignore composition, drawing and design. For instance, Rembrandt and Braque used similar colours - Rembrandt to give a sense of light and depth, Braque for flat, decorative effects. Black in a Rembrandt is used in shadow and mysterious distance, quite different from the heavy black outlines and flat areas in a highly stylised Braque still life.

One example from the KOG stockroom are these two brilliant artworks by the highly talented and versatile artist, Helen McCarthy Tyalmuty.

 

She has used the same two predominant colours in both artworks (red and white), but her composition and painting technique have completely transformed how I perceive the colours. In ‘Marrawuk (The Dry Season) - HMCG0086’ I perceive the red colour as trees in the foreground, whereas in ‘Ngete (Ant Hills) - HMCG0104A’  I see the white accents in the foreground with the red colour receding as if it were the background. Personally, I also think the artworks have very different moods - Marrawuk really does capture that feeling of a still, hot afternoon, whereas in Ngete I feel energised - like the energy of a hundred worker ants are about to burst off the canvas!

Feeling Inspired ? Or even more confused? Either way, not to worry – here at Kate Owen Gallery we have a wonderful team of friendly, informative art consultants who can help you find the perfect artwork to finish off that home or office project. Get in touch with us today – we love hearing from you! We also have a great range of gallery services which you can explore here.


Desert Mob 2018

The feature artwork for Desert Mob 2018, ‘Ngura (Country)’, a collaborative work by Mumu Mike Williams, Kunmanara Martin and Sammy Dodd of Mimili Maku Arts

Earlier this year, the Kate Owen Gallery team attended Desert Mob in Alice Springs. Desert Mob is a unique annual event that brings art centres from across the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The Desert Mob opening, including Exhibition, Symposium and MarketPlace, is an opportunity to view new developments in Aboriginal art, to meet the artists, listen to their stories and share their culture in the heart of their country.

The Desert Mob exhibition at the Araluen Arts Centre is a real highlight - and we love seeing the latest works from the artists and art centres that Kate Owen gallery proudly represents. Please enjoy this little video of our Gallery Director in front of the Warlukurlangu Arts Centre hang in the annual Desert Mob exhibition. At Kate Owen Gallery, we have a beautiful range of artworks from Warlukulangu. Simply head over to our Art Search Tool and in 'Region' select the community of Yuendumu - you'll be spoilt for choice! 

Kate Owen Gallery was also lucky enough to acquire two stunning pieces from Kaltjiti Arts while in Alice Springs:


Mamungari'nya - MALHF18-70 by Manyitjanu Lennon

Manyitjanu is a highly respected senior elder and holds extensive cultural knowledge. As a senior artist at Kaltjiti Arts, Manitjanu also works on major collaborative pieces, which are used to teach younger generations skills in painting technique and storytelling, ensuring rich cultural integrity is maintained. Manitjanu has five children and four grandchildren.


Mamungari'nya - PTSHF17-361 by Pollyanne Tjungkaya Smith

Pollyanne has been an Anangu Education Worker at the Fregon Anangu School since 1994, and paints after school and during the holiday periods. Pollyanne paints the country of her mother; to the north, yet close to Watarru, is Untju-ku ngura, her mother's birthplace. A large hill with a rockhole in the middle is a distinguishing feature of this country.


A Day in Utopia with Barbara Weir

Earlier this year, we visited the remote community of Utopia (Urapuntja) with renowned artist Barbara Weir. Here, KOG Crew member, Elizabeth Geyer, recalls some of the highlights of the day.

article          |         video


 

Visiting Utopia as a day trip from Alice Springs is not for the faint hearted. Expect to leave Alice Springs well before the sun rises!

With our supplies packed in the troopie the night before, we were ready to pick up renowned artist Barbara Weir and hit the highway, pronto. En route to Barbara’s place, I spread out in the back of the troopie and made myself comfortable – with only four people in a vehicle that can hold up to eleven, I was hoping I could catch up on a few zzz’s I had lost that morning. But as we pulled up to Barbara’s  house that fantasy quickly subsided.

Despite Barbara being in her 70s, she was the most energetic of all of us and quickly instructed us what to load in to the troopie. Barbara had purchased an incredible amount of food for her family who we’d be visiting that day. As the massive drums of food essentials piled in, I realized it was going to be a cosy ride to Utopia. With the back doors squeezed shut, we were ready to start the 300km journey to Utopia.

Our early start was rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. Already well on our way, but hours of driving left, we stopped and enjoyed the sunrise until the sun started to sear the first blades of grass. Then we were on the road again, knowing the day had begun.

For some, the Sandover Highway may just be a very long (560km long to be exact!) dirt track. But the places and people who live along the road are quite extraordinary. And if you’re an art buff, you’ll know the community of Utopia is home to some of Australia’s greatest artists. We took a moment to say farewell to the bitumen road, and embrace the glorious red earth ahead of us.

Mt Skinner cattle station, roughly 200km north-east of Alice Springs, is the first property we passed on the Sandover Highway. Whilst the cattle set against the desert landscape has a visual contradiction for some, they were very healthy and completely content in their surroundings. Utopia station was once a cattle farm too; the land was leased by German settlers in the 1920s that set up a station and homestead – apparently called ‘Utopia’ due to the abundance of wild rabbits. So I assume Mt Skinner Station it is a window of what Utopia once was for a short period of time. In 1979 the Anmatyerre and Alyawarr peoples gained freehold title to the Utopia Pastoral Lease under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. 

Over an hour of travelling on the bumpy dirt road and we reached the stock grid dividing Mt Skinner Station and Utopia Station. My first impression of Utopia was that there were a surprising amount of shrubs, bush grass, even gum trees in certain areas – which suggests a good source of water. Despite visiting at a drier time of the year, we were still able to see a beautiful variation in vegetation, and vibrant bursts of colour from the wild flowers. I can only image the colour punctuating the landscape in spring!

The bitumen greeted us for a few short kilometers while we visited Alparra, one of the 16 outstations and camps spread over approximately 1000 square kilometres of land. Alparra is home to the local store, school and AFL field – which hosted a big game the night before – so Alparra was buzzing as we waited for the local store to open. If you ever visit Alparra, make sure you stop at the local store as it also houses the local ‘trophy cabinet’ for the community – and they’ve won plenty of very impressive trophies!!

As we enjoyed our breakfast and succumbed to the devoted eyes of some of the community dogs – Barbara was already busy catching up with family. We continued on our journey, first stop: Atnwengerrp.

I was very excited to visit Atnwengerrp (pronounced ‘a-noong-a-pa’) as this is the title given to many of Minnie Pwerle and Barbara Weir’s artworks. Kate Owen Gallery also held an exhibition and artist in residence program a couple of years ago titled ‘Atnwengerrp Revisited’ with Barbara Weir, Lizzie Pwerle, Charmaine Pwerle, and Teresa Purla. I had to pinch myself that I was about to be on the Country which is home to (and to which has served as artistic inspiration) for some of Australia’s greatest artists.

It was a delight to pull up in the troopie and see some familiar faces like Lizzie and Teresa, and to be introduced to a whole host of family members. Anmatyerre and Alyawarre language was flowing as everyone caught up.

Teresa took us on a tour of Atnwengerrp outstation – as well as a great artist, Teresa has served on the Board of the Urapuntja Council Aboriginal Corporation for the last 15 years, and she was eager to highlight the improvements that had been made in Atnwengerrp. The Urapuntja Council Aboriginal Corporation is the administrative body responsible for service delivery to the Anmatyerre and Alyawarra speaking people who live on the Angarapa and Alyawarra Land Trusts, covering some 3,230 square kilometers. Teresa is now the vice-chairman of the Urapuntja Council, which is hugely rewarding, but due to her many commitments she has had limited time to devote to her artwork. Teresa showed us some artworks she had been working on in her limited spare time and they are spectacular – make sure you keep an eye on our newest artworks page for when they arrive in the gallery!

Teresa then took us to meet three esteemed elders and legendary artists, Galya, Molly and Emily Pwerle.  Three sisters and matriarchs who witnessed their late sister, Minnie Pwerle, skyrocket to dizzying heights of the contemporary Australian art scene, and now paint in their own right on country – rarely leaving their home for the ‘big smoke’ of Alice Springs.

Despite Galya and Emily being in their 80s, and Molly in her 90s, they walked up unaided to meet us and took great delight when we asked if we could take some photos (Molly LOVES the camera!). What struck me was the pure, unadulterated happiness and openness with which we were met. Despite living in one of the most remote places in Australia, it appeared the sisters’ health, happiness and overall wellbeing surpassed many people their age in Alice Springs, or Sydney for that matter.

After a quick lunch Barbara was ready to hit the road again – she had many other outstations she wanted to visit that day and unlike us, she knew what the road conditions would be like ahead! We waved good bye and continued on to Rocket Range.

At Rocket Range we were able to witness Angelina Ngale painting – on country and surrounded by family. For me, it highlighted the artmaking practice employed by many Indigenous Australian artists, which is in stark contrast to the western notion of the artist secluded in their studio, removed from the distractions of the outside world. For Angelina, creative expression occurred while life continued all around her; siblings sharing stories, children playing, dogs wanting to cuddle up close (sometimes too close and stepping on the canvas, which was met with a ferocious yell from all of the ladies). Art and life are inextricably linked.

We also had a chance meeting with nephew of  ‘the batik man’. Batik is traditionally a women's art form in other countries, and is a method of decorating cloth by applying designs in hot wax to the fabric followed by dyes.

In 1978 the women had learned the art of batik as a means to establish a source of income in preparation for the land claim hearing. The 1978 Utopia Batik Art Program was the first art program in Utopia and participants included Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Lena Pwerle and the Petyarre Sisters: Kathleen, Violet, Gloria, Nancy, Myrtle and Ada, as well as one man, Lindsay Bird Mpetyane.

The Utopia batiks soon gained recognition for their distinctive artistic statements, showcasing an intuitive sense of movement, composition and colour.  Art collectors took notice and by 1981 Utopia batiks were exhibited at the Adelaide Art Festival in a major event titled “Floating Forests of Silk:  Utopia Batik from the Desert”. By the late 1980s the artists moved to the painting medium and, as they say, ‘the rest is history’.

The Batik Mans’ family has kept close ties to the people of Utopia, and we found out he was to be the lucky recipient of Angelina's recent creation!

After some time catching up and having a yarn Barbara was itching to get on the road again – still so many more places and people to meet and half the day was already over.

We visited more outstations, including Soapy Bore, Three Bore, and Mosquito Bore. Some of the roads appeared more like walking tracks, but they proved to be valuable shortcuts and a brilliant opportunity to see more of the vibrant red earth and vegetation; soft long grasses, scrubby bushes and areas that were charred black from a recent burn off.  

We then passed through the great Sandover River. While it was dry when we visited I was surprised just how large the river bed was. This is a major feature in the landscape, with large old white gum trees lining the river as far as the eye can see. It made complete sense why the bend in the great Sandover River is a frequent motif and Barbara Weir’s art.

We then continued to what remained of the old Utopia Station. Barbara pointed out old foundations of what once was the old homestead. The metal frame of a shed, a water tower and the old windmill appear to be the only items that have withstood the test of time.

It felt like a place that held a lot of childhood memories and nostalgia for Barbara, but also the place where her life dramatically changed forever.

Being of mixed heritage Barbara was hidden from welfare patrol at a young age by her family, including her Aunty, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Barbara has fond childhood memories living at Utopia with her large extended family, and in some of her works today she will depict the caves where she would collect water with her coolamon. As we passed through the Sandover River, Barbara also showed us the bushy scrub next to many of the great gum trees that lined the river, which made for good hiding spots as a child.

Her idyllic childhood was disrupted when at the age of ten Barbara was suddenly taken from her family by welfare from Utopia Homestead, as she was collecting water. She is one of the people known as the "stolen generation". Barbara was taken to Alice Springs, but because she kept speaking her Anmatyerre and Alyawarre tongue, was moved further away to children's homes and foster families around Australia, eventually ending up in Darwin. Though she lost contact with her family, she was determined to return to them, never forgetting that 'Atnwengerrp' was the Anmatyerre word for her home.

As Barbara and her children stand on country today, speaking language with an intimate knowledge of culture, country and law – it is true testament to Barbara’s strength and resilience.

As the light started to shift to the soft afternoon sun, we knew we were fast running out of time if we wanted to reach the bitumen before dark. The Sandover Highway put on a spectacular show for us, which made it hard not to pull over for a few more photos – the light perfectly hitting the red earth, the rock formations, and even animal tracks in the sand.

This land is alive and full of features in the landscape - quite different to the story painted by Google Maps when you search this region of Australia (a vast expanse of nothing appears!). While it would be brilliant for Google street view to capture the Sandover Highway – I don’t think their equipment could take the battering of the corrugated road or the dust whipped up on the road. By the end of the day I think all of our bodies were weary from the relentless rattling and shaking of the troopie.

As we turned off the Sandover back on to the highway, we were greeted with large clouds forming in the distance, and shortly after, a spectacular lightning show. We rolled the windows down and soaked in the smell of the rain hitting the hot earth.

We left Alice Springs in the dark hours of the morning, and we got back late in the evening. There was a stillness in the air again, and the streets were glistening from the storm that had passed through earlier in the evening. Our bodies were tired, but for the KOG Crew who had never visited Utopia before, our minds were invigorated by the amazing people and country we had the pleasure and privilege of visiting that day.

I hope this blog has been a glimpse into a day that none of us will forget. Our sincerest thanks to KOG’s Director, Geoff Henderson, for this brilliant opportunity and our most heartfelt gratitude to the incredible Barbara Weir. 

Video: A Day in Utopia with Barbara Weir


Tommy Watson | KOG Perspectives

The Kate Owen Gallery staff have had the pleasure and privilege to be surrounded by the art of Tommy Watson for the last couple of weeks during our stellar show Tommy Watson | Desert Legend. Here the KOG Crew share their insights, gush over their favourite pieces, and reflect on the legacy of this recently deceased master.


 A staff favourite


Like many indigenous artists Tommy Watson’s artworks are simply titled but refer to so much more than the title may suggest. ‘My Country’ (2013) is without a doubt one of the most unique Tommy Watson artworks I’ve seen. It captures everything; the physical veins of the landscape, vivid colours of earth, the sandhills, and the flora that sporadically trail and dot the land. It also manages to capture the intangible livid nature of the outback suggesting a forceful flow of energy.

In this unique artwork Tommy expresses his ‘country’ via an authoritive journey of chunky dots of fraught black and blue tonalities. The bright orange is arresting, vibrant against the darkness. The colours undulate around each other and dissolve into the painting, rendering the landscape pregnant with tension as though this is the nucleus of everything.

‘My Country’ can be interpreted as a tribute to mother nature, her harshness, overwhelming beauty and force. Showing the power and strength of the elements reflected in a physical state – the landscape from an aerial perspective.
Within the constraints of the linen Tommy has captured the raw energy of life.

Kirby Olave
Indigenous Art Consultant
Kate Owen Gallery


Tommy Watson’s fame


Tommy Watson was undeniably the most highly prized and collected artist in the Indigenous art movement for well over a decade. Watson’s prices reached dizzy heights of nearly a million dollars whilst painting and continue to blossom posthumously.
In 2006 Watson was selected for the Musee Qui du Branly in Paris, commissioned by Jacques Chirac – (then President of France) this was a milestone for the already established star of the world of modern art.

Watson’s highest auction record was reached in 2007 and stands at $240,000 including BP. The artwork titled ‘Waltitjatta’ (2006) measures 204 x 251cm – by no means a small work but in the grand scheme of things – and dwarfed by the prices reached through private treaty in the last 5 years.

Watson’s artworks are enigmatic, capturing dreaming’s that in his words, “can be traced back to the end of the ice age and beyond.” These artworks will vanish soon enough, like the melting ice at the end of the ice age.

A selection of Tommy’s largest and most important works have been collected and left to mature somewhat - hidden from the public and institutions alike. ‘Scarcity’ and ‘rarity’ are words often casually thrown around in context of a great artist’s works but in the case of Tommy Watson’s largest artworks, we are yet to see the full impact of a market that cannot quench their thirst fast enough.

Daniel Goldshaft
Senior indigenous art consultant
Kate Owen Gallery


A quiet moment with Tommy Watson


Tommy Watson | Desert Legend is on display in our third level collectors gallery, which perches on the corner of the major intersection of Victoria and Darling Road, in the old York Building in Rozelle. It’s a fabulous open space that’s just perfect for major exhibitions, and the sunlight floods the room throughout the day.

Whilst Kate Owen Gallery has had some major shows on display in this space, for me, this one has completely hypnotized me. Being in the presence of one Tommy Watson artwork is enthralling, so you can imagine what it must do to your senses to be completely enveloped by Tommy’s rhythmical paint and sensual depictions of Country. It is a wonderful feeling, and I am acutely aware it is a phenomenal  rarity to be graced with this each day I come to ‘work’.

I have actually found myself getting in to a bit of a new ‘morning routine’ since the Tommy Watson exhibition began - I’ve taken to having my morning coffee not at my desk, but upstairs in the top gallery space.  As I enter the space the hustle and bustle on the city street below completely washes away, and as the sunlight begins to saturate the space, the artworks begin to sing. This quiet moment with Tommy Watson’s artistic genius is something I cherish.

I encourage everyone to take a moment out of their busy lives to experience this exhibition !

Elizabeth Geyer
Media, Digital Marketing & Communications
Kate Owen Gallery


Museum Quality Artworks

It goes without saying that the paintings by Tommy Watson featured in our exhibition are sublime, many of them never exhibited before and a body of work that truly represents the depth of Tommy’s knowledge, respect for ‘Country’ and artistic skill.    
 
On a personal note, I found that talking with Ken McGregor who had a close relationship with Tommy, gave me a glimpse of the man, who in the tradition of the Aboriginal stockman, yet a traditional elder, found “voice on canvas” at a later age.
 
It would make perfect sense to me and be completely appropriate if some of the incredible works in the exhibition found their way to Australian Art Institutions where they could be shared with the public.   His work is already on display in the Musee du quai Branly in Paris where the great spiritual heritage of the Australian Indigenous people is celebrated and promoted, surely it’s time for Australia to follow suit …..  

Surrey Webb
Senior indigenous art consultant
Kate Owen Gallery


Meet The King Sisters!

We are absolutely thrilled Tarisse & Sarrita has accepted our invitation to be part of our artist in residence program – they truly embody the exciting next generation of artists who will no doubt spearhead the Aboriginal art movement in years to come

Tarisse & Sarrita will set up their studio in our third level collectors’ gallery and EVERYONE is welcome to come by, say hello to the artists, watch them paint and answer any questions you may have about their art, culture and inspiration.

We will have their new body of work hanging in the top gallery – ranging from large corporate pieces to gorgeous small works - all available for purchase.

We look forward to seeing you in the gallery in September!

Dates & Times the Kings Sisters will be in the gallery:

Saturday 12 September: 10am – 5pm

Sunday 13 September: 10am – 5pm

Monday 14 September: 10am – 4pm

Tuesday 15 September:

Wednesday 16 September:

Thursday 17 September: 10am – 4pm

Friday 18 September: 10am – 5pm

Saturday 19 September: 10am – 5pm

Sunday 20 September: 10am – 5pm

Monday 21 September: 10am – 4pm

Tuesday 22 September:

Wednesday 23 September:

Thursday 24 September: 10am – 4pm

Friday 25 September: 10am – 5pm

Saturday 26 September: 10am – 5pm

Sunday 27 September: 10am – 5pm