Quarta-Tooma, Ormiston Gorge
Quarta-Tooma, Ormiston Gorge

Albert Namatjira

1902 - 1959 Quarta-Tooma, Ormiston Gorge 1939
  • watercolour
27 cm x 34.5 cm

Ormiston Gorge is the largest, and artistically most inspiring, of the chasms that punctuate the MacDonnell Ranges. The immense gorge was sculpted by surging floodwaters racing from elevated northern plains, to the Finke River basin, and beyond to Lake Eyre.

Albert Namatjira, and his mentor Rex Battarbee, made an extended expedition to Ormiston Gorge in the early spring of 1939 a journey that resulted in the production of several celebrated works, including Quarta-Tooma Ormiston Gorge.

Battarbee later recalled the precise elements that Namatjira captured so intensely at Quarta-Tooma:

'To our amazement we found a magnificent gorge of many colours, and in the bed of the creek were beautiful pools of water, gemlike in quality, reflecting the high red walls; and ghost gums clinging to the rock faces. The pools were set among rocks of pastel pinks, greens, purples and yellows, truly a colourist's paradise, of which one could not grow weary. One has only to linger in this gorge to witness the most unbelievable colour effects, produced by the play of sunshine reflected from one wall face of rock to another in shadow'.1

Namatjira would have been aware that the local name of the site Quarta-Tooma (Egg-hit) refers to the ancestral Emu that visited the place. One senses that while painting this radiant image, the artist was intent on capturing the all-pervasive refracted light that characteristically permeates the gorge and delights the senses.

1. Battarbee, R., quoted in Strehlow, T., Rex Battarbee: Artist and Founder of the Aboriginal Art Movement in Central Australia, Legend Press, Sydney, 1956, p. 46

Source: John Keane

© Namatjira Legacy Trust/Copyright Agency, 2018

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The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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