‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’: the short, splendid career of Mavis Ngallametta

‘Starting to paint at Kendall river’: the details of the artist’s large-scale works invite the viewer to look closer.

Some paintings look impressive from a distance, others entice one to step closer to explore the details. Mavis Ngallametta’s remarkable large-scale works manage to do both, luring one in for a closer look, much like a fairy tale book with magnificent illustrations.

‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’ is a magical exhibition that showcases the short but impressive career of Mavis Ngallametta, a distinguished indigenous painter hailing from Queensland.

The exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery is divided into four parts, representing different places, activities and times in the artist’s life.

Born into the Kugu people on the Cape York Peninsula, Ngallametta was renowned for her vibrant paintings of the Australian landscape. She first tried acrylics at a women’s painting workshop in 2008, spending the final decade of her life working on her craft until she died in 2019.

Ngallametta’s paintings are seeped with love for her native country, portraying various places that are connected to the people and activities most important to her.

This exhibition showcases how Ngallametta came to find her signature style, evolving from small experimental paintings to grand acrylic works.

Like many indigenous artists, Ngallametta paints her works sitting on the floor. However, as opposed to the usual birds-eye view, she shows the landscapes from an uncommon 45-degree angle.

The spacious rooms at the Queensland Art Gallery do justice to Ngallametta’s monumental works.

Not only do Ngallametta’s paintings bring to life the vibrancy of Australia, but they are also painted with natural pigments she gathered herself from the wild.

From paintings depicting age-old backburning activities to baskets weaved of discarded fishing nets, also known as ghost nets, everything in the exhibition ties into the artist’s connection to the land.

Walking through the four rooms in Queensland Art Gallery is a visual pleasure for the colourful brilliance of the paintings alone. Ngallametta’s works can be easily enjoyed by a wide range of audiences, both those who prefer a quick and refreshing stroll through to those who like to get lost in the detail of it all.

The artist collected natural pigments to bring to life the colours of the land in many of her works.

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