Ochre, Iron Oxide, was the first colour paint. It has been used on every inhabited continent since painting began and has been on the palettes of almost every artist in history. The first white settlers in North America called the Indigenous people 'Red Indians' because of the way they painted themselves with Ochre as a shield against evil, symbolising the good elements of the world.
There are large Ochre mines in the Luberon area of France and deposits in Siena, Tuscany. But,
it is in Australia where the longest tradition of using Ochre is to be found. The cave painters used Ochre forty thousand years ago and the tradition of using Ochre has been transformed into one of the most exciting art movements of recent times.
The Art community at Warmun, Turkey Creek, is home of wonderful artists like Lina Nyadbi, Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie. They all use Ochre in their works, but in ways that involve large areas of paint rather than dotting. With the introduction of acrylic paints artists into Western Desert communities, the artists continue to use vibrant colours inspired by their traditional pigments, the beautiful work of Mitjilli Napanangka Gibson is a great example:
Mitjilli Napanangka Gibson painting her incredible work
Mitjilli was a highly talented Artist who loved bright colours and. Bold design. Mitjili's Dreaming Stories are associated with her land and are abstracted aerial views of the countryside and it's sacred sites.
Mitjilli Napanangka, Dreaming stories (Tjukurpa)
I recently saw David Hockney's retrospective exhibition at the Tate. His landscape paintings of the Wolds, in Particular 'Woldgate Woods' with the extraordinary vibrant Ochre path meandering through the woods, reminded me of Mitjilli Napanangka Gibson paintings. The rich tapestry of colour and texture was Yorkshire but could easily have been the Sand Hills at Mina Mina in the Western Australian Desert.
Gibson and Hockney, artists from opposite sides of the world but each with a love of Country, their own land and their Dreamtime Stories.
Woldgate Woods, by David Hockney