Angelina Ngale Pwerle c.1950

Top 200 Australian Aboriginal Artists Special Feature

Angelina Ngale Pwerle
Angelina Pwerle, Bush Plum (Arnwekety) Dreaming, Courtesy Aboriginal Art Directory Gallery

Language: Anmatyerr, Anmatjerra
Community: Camel Camp, Utopia
Works Offered/Sold at Auction: 39/20
Total Sales at Auction to 2010: AUD$113,479.00
Highest result at Auction to 2010: AUD$38,400.00
Rank amongst Living Artists: 44
Rank amongst all artists of the movement: 137

Angelina Ngale Pwerle c.1950

There is a great deal of confusion amongst Aboriginal art collectors surrounding the identities of Angelina Ngal(e) and Angelina Pwerl(e). They are, in fact, one and the same person. Aboriginal ‘skin’ names applied by linguists and anthropologists working with the people of the Eastern Desert have changed several times during the past 20 years. Angelina was at first known by her husband’s Alyawarr language skin name, Pwerl. However this is the equivalent to Ngal amongst the Anmatyerr language group to which she personally belongs.

The confusion in the market is mainly due to dealer rivalry. Her works were exhibited from a period early in her career by Bill Nutall’s Niagara Gallery in Melbourne and Christopher Hodges’ Utopia Art Sydney. Both galleries put considerable effort in to promoting her as Angelina Pwerle and held solo exhibitions from the late 1990’s onward. However during more recent times she has been encouraged, and promoted by Melbourne dealer Lauraine Diggins, and through her, by Coo-ee Aboriginal Art in Sydney. These galleries accepted Jenny Green’s most recent linguistic classificatory system and refer to Angelina as Ngal. Neither gallery camp has been prepared to compromise, hence the confusion.

Angelina’s earliest artworks were wooden sculptures influenced by her late husband, the older brother of Cowboy Loy Pwerl. She began producing batiks in 1986 and paintings in 1988-9 along with her sisters Kathleen Ngal (Top 200 review) and Poly Ngal (Top 200 review), as part of the CAAMA ‘Summer project’. She quickly adapted to the introduction of acrylic paints and canvas and it is through this medium that she has gained international recognition.

Angelina’s work has been described as a contemporary dialogue: a translation of the cultural, geographic, social and religious components of her life. Her paintings are layered and can be read and appreciated on one level for their tendency toward abstraction and painterliness. The deeper meaning, with its references to the cultural and social mores of her society, requires probing to be fully understood.

Her subjects are centred on her grandfather’s country, Arlparra. In many works the Bush Plum, a primary Dreaming for which she has custodial responsibility, is represented through a focus of many coloured dots flooding the canvas. Her refined technique extends her ability to convey several layers of meaning within these exquisitely coloured compositions. Paintings related to the Bush Plum like the one illustrated here, translate as geographical locations, elements of knowledge of these places, and ‘timescapes’ or memories of hunting or ceremonial business. The result is a subtle and textured surface that hints to the viewer of an ethereal landscape imbued with cosmological references. This particular work was created in 2008 and measures 128x90cm.

Angelina is an artist whose current career is firmly seated in the primary market. She is yet to achieve the results she richly deserves at auction. The first work to appear at public sale was as late as 2000 and by the end of 2002, no less than nine works had appeared of which only two had sold for a total value of just $9,085. As her reputation grew through solo exhibitions at Niagara Gallery, nine of twelve works that appeared at sale between 2003 and 2005 sold successfully. Her record price at auction was achieved in 2007 when Lawson Menzies sold the magnificent Spring Flowers at Arlparra 2007, a 150 x 374 cm superbly coloured canvas, for $38,400. Though she has consistently created works that are its equal, no other works of this quality have appeared at public auction to date. Her next highest result is the $14,340 realised at Christies for a painting measuring 176 x 176 cm. Having been a finalist in the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2009, and been included in a host of solo and group shows during the past two years, works this size currently available in the primary market carry prices between $25,000 and $30,000.

In common with the paintings of famed Emily Kngwarreye, Angelina Ngal’s works exhibit a progressive quality. It has been said that they ‘embody a wonderful synthesis of contemporary abstraction and indigenous ethereality’. This exquisite abstract aesthetic is what distinguishes her work and has established her as one of the pre-eminent artists currently working amongst the Utopia community today.

This review is by Adrian Newstead, a leading Aboriginal art consultant.

As part of this informative series, Adrian profiles a selection of Australia's 200 highest selling and most successful living and deceased Aboriginal artists. Each profile contains the artist's primary and secondary market results. They have been written to assist collectors in learning more about the artists behind the paintings, and the place of each artist in the history of the development of specific regional styles.

Adrian Newstead is the owner of Cooee Gallery in Bondi, Sydney. Statistics supplied by the AASD (Australian Art Sales Digest) which ranks artists according to performance indicators relating to secondary market sales.

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