Featured Tapestries

Painting at Kalkutjara

Mary McLean is an elder of the Ngaatjajarra Aboriginal community from the Western Desert region in Central Australia. Her work is represented in all major Australian public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Queensland Art Gallery. A survey exhibition of her work was held at Australia House in London in 1996 and a retrospective took place at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide, in 2005. In 1995 she was the winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award and in 1996 was awarded the Festival of Perth Artist. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Curtin University of Technology in 2001 and an Australia Council Fellowship in 2002.

McLean’s paintings represent quotidian aspects of her community life, topographic features of the landscape, as well as the flora and fauna native to Ngaatjajarra, for example, bush foods like the quandong fruit. She works in a figurative tradition, her canvases replete with densely packed imagery teeming with life. McLean’s paintings often feature masses of tiny figures which seem to populate a fecund landscape, often intertwined with animal tracks or fields of flowers.

In Painters at Kaltukatjara, five figures with out-stretched arms are interspersed over a red ground, strewn with white and yellow flowers. Weaver Irene Creedon was keen to capture the expressiveness of the ground in the image – the striking red of the earth contrasting with the dazzle of wildflowers – and used a strong palette to achieve this end. The finished tapestry has a buoyant sense of vitality and, in its mesmerising harmony between humanity and nature, represents a condition of perfection, an idyll.


This tapestry is owned by the Australian Tapestry Workshop and is available for purchase. Please contact us on +613 9699 7885 or email us for more information.