Evelyn Pultara c.1940

Top 200 Australian Aboriginal Artists Special Feature

Evelyn Pultara
Evelyn Pultara, Bush Yam Dreaming (2011), Courtesy Muk Muk Fine Art

Country: Wilora, Stirling
Language: Anmatyerre
Community: Utopia
Works Offered/Sold at Auction: 29/16
Total Sales at Auction to 2008: AUD$73,366.00
Rank amongst Living Artists: 63
Rank amongst all artists of the movement: 166

Evelyn Pultara c.1940

Evelyn Pultara was born during the outbreak of World War II at Woodgreen Station, the cattle property adjoining Utopia Station and has now become a senior custodian for her Dreaming the bush yam. She began painting traditional bush tucker and awelye (women’s ceremonial body paint designs) in 1997 but went on to exclusively paint her plant totem, the bush yam.

While rarely indicating any more than necessary about the context of her paintings their content is the pencil yam (atnwelarr) a slender twining plant with yellow pea flowers and edible tubers. This has been an abundant source of food for her Anmatyerr clansmen since the dawn of creation and it is her responsibility to pay homage to it through song and dance in ceremony - and now in art.

Her Dreamings, related through haptic adventures in paint, relate the tales of the mythic totemic ancestors who made the land, its people, and its food. Through their telling and retelling and the depiction of their sites in art, these Dreamings provide a song-map that locates the water holes, ochre pits, food sources, and sacred sites of the artist’s country. It has been said that her paintings impart the rhythm of the yam corroborree enacted and retold for time in memoriam through song and dance.

While Evelyn’s work has been exhibited since the late 1990’s her first solo exhibition was held at the World Vision Gallery in Sydney’s Leichardt. This was followed in quick succession by solo shows in Milan, Sydney and Melbourne. In 2005 she was won first prize in the General Painting section of the of the 22nd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. Given her relatively recent emergence as an artist of renown a staggering 29 works have been offered at auction. With her career still in its relative infancy, and the artist continuing to exhibit regularly in primary market galleries, it is little wonder that her clearance rate at auction is a relatively low 55%. This should not put off collectors, however it is wise to be rigorous in selecting works of quality with good source provenance. Bonham’s and Goodman have taken up much of the running on Evelyn’s secondary market sales. Her record price at auction was achieved for a very large untitled work created in 2004 measuring 180 x 240 cm. Estimated at $8,000-10,000 in the Bonham’s & Goodman November 2005 Sydney sale (Lot No. 77) it sold just a tad above the high estimate at $10,200.

The work illustrated is a fine example of the artist’s freer style. Executed in rusty earth tones it rates as a major work at 125 x 180 cm. and has some age making it a good investment at the right price. As with many of her most popular works it depicts the bush yam plant, during seasonal transition.

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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