Behind the scenes: a day in the Epenarra studio
Nestled in the Hill Country on the North-Eastern edge of Iytewelepenty is the small community of Wutunugurra. Situated in the lower Barkly Tablelands, the community sits on the Western bank of the ephemeral Frew River down 118km of unsealed road. Home to approximately 200 people, predominantly of the Alyawarr language group, the community is contained to housing, an outback store, a church, a health centre and a school. At its nucleus sits the home of the Epenarra artists.
The view from Camel Hill near Wutunugurra
Open to any eager member of the community, there are currently over 30 artists working from the centre – the high concentration of artists in Wutunugurra makes the community a hive of creative activity. Artists work on linen, canvas and found objects - mostly sourced from the mass of cars that don’t survive drive from the Stuart Highway. In the small, tight-knit community the Epenarra Art Centre is not only a source of employment, it is home to creative expression, family, community and cultural education.
New works in the Epenarra studio ready for cataloguing
A typical day at the art centre starts at 8am, when arts worker Julie Beasley opens the doors. Artists file in at their own pace, usually heading straight to the kitchen for a cup of tea and a biscuit. In the art centre they find all the materials that they will need to start creating their masterpieces. There are tables to sit at, or rugs and cushions for those that prefer painting on the ground. Others paint from home, visiting the art centre to replenish their paint containers and drop off finished works.
Julie Beasley preparing canvas for the Epenarra artists
The busiest days in the art centre come once a week when the staff from Barkly Regional Arts come to visit. This means that a troopy overflowing with fresh paints, brushes, canvas and roast chickens comes rambling down Kurundi road carrying members of the Barkly Arts visual arts team. Bush trips provide a crucial opportunity for professional development, relationship building and workshopping. Finished works are shared and discussed, with artists telling the story behind each work. Artists and the Barkly Arts team have the chance to share ideas and discuss projects, exhibitions and artworks. Finally, new canvases are distributed before a shared lunch of chicken sandwiches, biscuits, fruit and tea.
Waterhole by senior Epenarra artist Jessie Peterson
In the 11 years since Barkly Arts began facilitating art making in Wutunugurra, the Epenarra Artists have developed a shared visual language, elements of which can be found in the the style of most of the Epenarra artists. Influenced by the landscape and native flora and fauna of Iytwelepenty, the visual language of the Epenarra artists is dominated by a use of dotting that is heavy and overlapping to the point that dots congeal and become all but indistinguishable from one another as they form the shape of the rolling hills, swamps, shrubs, flowers, eucalypts and rivers. This visual language has been heavily influenced by senior artists such as Rita Beasley, Jessie Peterson, Topsy Steppa Beasley, Annette Peterson and Susie Peterson and is now being adopted and transformed by younger artists such as Pammy Foster, Magdalene Foster and Triscilla Peterson.
Shop works by the Epenarra artists here.