Arthur Koo’ekka Pambegan Jr & Alair Pambegan

Arthur Pambegan was born in 1936 in Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula and lived in the community all his life. From an early age he was engaged in the ceremonial life of Aurukun, learning from his father Arthur Koo’ekka  Pambegan Sr, and later performing, carving and painting. He was a senior member of the Wik-Mungkan people and an elder of the Winchanam ceremonial group. He died in 2010. Pambegan showed his work in 2000 at National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. In 2002 his work made a strong impact in the large exhibition Stories from Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra. In 2003 Pambegan made impressive large painted sculptures commissioned for the exhibition Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest at Queensland Art Gallery. In 2007 Pambegan participated in the first National Indigenous Art Triennial Cultural Warriors at the National Gallery of Australia. Internationally Pambegan has shown his work at the Guangzhou Museum of Art, Guangzhou China, and at the Hermitage Museum St Petersburg, Russia. His works are in the collections of National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The coastal region north of Aurukun township has an distinctive formation of cliffs, where the area’s dark red bauxite is layered with strata of white clay. These are the very markings of red and white bands of colour used in traditional body painting for ceremony and for sculpture decoration and more recently canvas painting of Aurukun. Anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton identifies that in traditional Aboriginal cultures, it is the “ritual ceremony” that influences aesthetics bringing to “the spiritual and social frameworks of life … a visual order”. Aesthetic excellence were seen to be those markings emanating “powerful distinct expressions of Wik law”. Untitled #18 [Walkan-Aw and Kalben Designs] 2009, Untitled #19 [Walkan-Aw and Kalben Designs] 2010 were painted by Arthur and his son Alair Pambegan using ochres, and charcoal with acrylic binder. These paintings have a power in their absolute simplicity and their ability through this to summon up place and time and order.

Untitled #18
[Walkan-aw and Kalben designs]
(2009), 61 × 81 cm
view at Hong Lan Grocer
56 Vulture St
West End
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