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Pintupi Way Review | Flash Paintings

By Jeremy Eccles, Aboriginal Art Directory

The telling and re-telling of the Papunya Tula story ought to become more scientific and less mythical as time passes and more research is done. So it’s disappointing to read that a film called Honey Ant Dreamers – co-produced by US comedian (and serious Aboriginal art collector) Steve Martin and Warumpi-bandsman Sammy Butcher – is under way in the NT which “portrays the story of Geoffrey Bardon, a Sydney teacher who taught at the Papunya primary school in 1971, where he encouraged adults in the community to paint a mural of their honey ant dreaming. The mural’s principal artist, the entrepreneur and traditional elder Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, became instrumental in spawning an art movement that saw sacred stories that had been painted in the sand and on bodies move to canvases”.

I could have sworn that Luke Scholes in his 2017 Tjungungutja catalogue quietly debunked that Bardon myth, pointing out that painting was dynamic before Bardon even arrived in Papunya and that the Warlpiri Men’s Museum in Yundumu had opened before the school mural was ever mentioned, so its murals were undoubtedly an inspiration for both Bardon and Kaapa.

More recently, John Kean’s book, Dot, Circle and Frame goes into even more detail of the cultural thinking and artists’ agency that preceded the Papunya’s Mens Painting Room. So it was surprising to find an old hand like gallerist Christopher Hodges writing: “Suddenly, in 1971, at Warumpi (Papunya) a group of men made their first paintings on board….produced an astonishing body of work in what seemed like an instant”.

At least he didn’t suggest the art went straight on to canvas!

To read the full review visit

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.