The Artists of Ampilatwatja community was established in 1999 near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The work produced by the artists is recognisably distinct from other Aboriginal artistic communities, due to the application of fine dots and the often bright and detailed figurative depiction of the land. A distinctive feature of paintings by the artists of Ampilatwatja are brightly coloured configurations of arreth, the flowers and plants known as strong bush medicine, demonstrating a deep connection to Country. A veritable source of life, the land has provided and sustained Alyawarr people for generations, with every plant and animal playing an important designated role in the ecosystem.
The paintings from the artists in this community pay homage to the significance use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into their community. Yet underneath the iridescent surfaces, there is an underlying sense that there is more to these landscapes than meets the eye.
In keeping with the laws of the community, the artists reveal only a small amount of knowledge to the uninitiated.
The esoteric information that is held sacred to these artists and their people is concealed from the public and layered underneath the common visual narrative, masked by the delicate layered dots of the painting. The many levels of interpretation permit artists to present their art to the public without compromising on the sacred nature of the stories that are told and passed on to future generations. Artists talk of two broad levels of interpretation, the inside stories which are restricted to those of the appropriate ritual standing, and the outside stories which are open to all. The art centre is open to visitors by appointment.
Image: Denise Ngwarraye Bonney, My Grandmothers Country. Acrylic on linen, 91 x 76cm. Courtesy: Artists of Ampilatwatja.