Margaret Loy Pula

Margaret Loy Pula, born in 1956, is a painter who belongs to the Anmatyerre people of Utopia, in Central Australia. She concentrates her vision of a captivating experience on a somewhat finite area. For the short time she has been painting, Pula has scarcely painted anything other than the bush and sweet potatoes. This reliable food source and her Utopia land are settled into pictorial relationships of infinite expanse, suggesting two people were involved in the making.

There is considerably more than a commitment to the search of her bush and sweet potatoes from her familiar surrounds. Within specific places of her land she slowly jabs the red ochre earth with her crowbar to reveal the microcosm of her culture, her totem and her father’s dreaming – “Anatye” or bush or sweet potato – which was the title of her 2016g exhibition at Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane.

Importantly, here is the meeting of the experienced and the unknown, the confidence of a known dreaming and of her father’s country of Unjangola, to the north of Utopia. It’s the knowledge of the infinite visible stars within the night sky of Utopia, its expansive and diverse country, the morning spiderwebs gleaming with the morning dew, and the serpentine course of bush potato vine hidden in the red ochre earth. They define the formal and subjective elements of Pula’s paintings. Because they are familiar things they establish the sensation of harmony, calm and a mesmerising unworldliness.

Pula uses tones of minimal colours, applied with a dabbing action using a gutta applicator, a small bottle filled with paint with various nozzles, usually used in the batik method, applied while lying on the ground with her canvas. The rhythm of jabbing the earth connects to the dabbing of the canvas. Pula begins her Anatye paintings, from the centre of canvas and gradually dabs towards the corners. This movement creates the recurring line movement that grids the painting into irregular geometric shapes. She always dabs from the top down, never intentionally dragging the gutta applicator. As John von Sturmer points out, “When you get movement towards geometry you move towards a story painting.” A single colour or tone is applied at one time over the entire canvas; she provides a fine gap in order to repeat the dabbing method again to apply the next layer. Pula does not mix colours or tones, but positions them between each other to create an optical illusion reminiscent of Seurat’s Pointillism and Nike Savvas’s monumental optical painting-installations. Pula’s dabs vary from light to heavy, evoking hierarchical structures, emotional response to the physical levels of the artist’s movements.

In Anatye, she presents a coherent image of the material and the spiritual. Her totem is her reality. The world her paintings describe is familiar yet intensely personal, ordered yet passionate, grounded yet topographical, infinite yet ephemeral. These differing ideas, found together in Pula’s painted dreamings, break the margins of their field to become declarations about the spirit of the infinite.

EXHIBITION
Abie Loy Kemarre, Margaret Loy Pula
& Kathleen Petyarre
5th – 29th July 2017

Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane

Courtesy the artist and Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane.