From the moment Makinti Napanangka’s brush first touched the canvas she immediately distinguished herself from her painting contemporaries. Compositionally, her paintings were worlds apart from those being produced beside her. They were of course drawn from the same rich cultural history shared by other Pintupi women, but at the same time, were vastly different. From the very outset Makinti defined herself with a purely painterly technique, which reflected an unwavering confidence and ability to write in paint exactly what she wanted to say. This was done spontaneously and without hesitation on whatever shaped canvas she worked on, and, as a testament to her individuality and conviction, this has continued uninterrupted for more than a decade.
Makinti’s early works were a complex network of tight, coloured roundels representing rocks and water sources, where one colour was used to outline the circles and others to fill them in.
Large scale works from the period between 1996 and 1999 were intense explosions of yellows, oranges, lavenders and off whites, laboriously executed over many long days. Every new canvas came with an accompaniment of six to eight pots of bright coloured paint, which would be dipped in and rotated until the painting was finished. Colours would often be blended, as brushes from one colour would be dipped in another. Whether this was done consciously or by accident, this is the one characteristic that has always remained, even as her style changed and simplified over the years, and can still be seen in her work today.
Being well under five foot tall, Makinti makes any surface over four foot square appear dramatically bigger. Makinti will huddle in the centre of the frame with her legs tucked under her, dwarfed by the vast expanse of unpainted canvas around her. Despite this, she has never been overwhelmed or intimidated by the size of any unpainted surface, but instead will calmly position herself at a chosen place on the canvas and begin to paint her story. The daily chatter and chaos around the art shed at Kintore does nothing to break her intense concentration as she revisits the ‘cheeky’ quoll at Lake MacDonald or the two travelling women at Lupul.
By the early 2000s Makinti’s style had become refined to a more minimal palette, and the tightly drawn roundels had been replaced by long, sweeping arcs representing nyimparra, or hair-string skirts, worn by dancing women. As the ancestral women had once danced across the earth at her most beloved and celebrated site of Lupul, south of Kintore, so too did the bright bands of rich colour flow across her canvas. Her preference for yellows and whites became a signature element in her work and the repetition of these colours would occasionally be punctuated and boldly interrupted by a single stripe of orange or purple. More recently this has given way to broad areas of a single colour, where the paint has been visibly pushed into the canvas. A close look at some of these works reveals marks in the paint where the metal ferrule of the brush has been dragged through the wet paint, leaving a permanent scratch. It’s almost as if she has applied the paint with her own tiny fingers, her fingernails creating additional texture in the paint surface.
Throughout her career as an artist Makinti has passed on through her paintings a clear vision of her spirituality and oneness with her country. For someone to interpret her stories repeatedly, so frequently and for so long, and for them to be done with such confidence and devotion, is an indication of her love of, and respect for, those things she holds so dear. To the observer they may seem simple, but to study the care and emotion spent marking out those seemingly simple lines is to begin to understand her, not as an artist but as a person.
Source: Papunya Tula Artists