A great article published in the Conversation by the Rock Art Australia Ian Potter Kimberley Chair at UWA, Professor Joakim Goldhahn on their work identifying bark painting artist – Paddy Compass Namadbara
For students of Australian art and art collectors around the globe, Arnhem Land is synonymous with bark painting: sheets of tree bark carefully prepared as a canvas for painting by Aboriginal artists.
As the market for bark paintings emerged in the early 20th century, recording the name of individual artists was far from the collector’s mind. Museums and art galleries are full of early artworks, sometimes attributed to particular “clans” or geographic areas, but rarely including the name of the artists.
Such collections are routinely named after the collector rather than the creators. One such collection, the Spencer/Cahill Collection at Museums Victoria, is the focus for our ongoing research project.
The Spencer/Cahill Collection is vast and includes many precious objects collected by Sir Baldwin Spencer when he visited Oenpelli (Gunbalanya), Northern Territory in 1912. He later acquired further artworks and objects via his “on the ground” contact, buffalo shooter Paddy Cahill.
Our project’s main focus is the approximately 170 bark paintings commissioned at Oenpelli between 1912 and 1922.