Pyrotechnics in paint could be one way of describing the Ken sisters’ commission for Artbank. Catherine wheels of colour spin across the surface of the diptych, uniting the two halves of the painting and sending forth filaments of pigment. With a vibrancy that heralds the best Anangu art, this astral spectacle thrusts the viewer across the picture plane, from one part of the painting to another just as one’s eye is drawn across the night sky, from sister to sister, star to star; from the loose mark of one sister’s brush to the methodical dotting of another.
The five sisters—Tingila Yaritji Young, Maringka Tunkin, Sandra Ken, Freda Brady and Tjungkara Ken—have returned to familiar and familial subjects for this collaboration: to the Honey Ant (Tjala) dreaming and the Seven Sisters stories, two stories that are their birth right and their bond. The Ken sisters paint the country where these two stories converge, where Alkanyunta, the place of the Seven Sisters comes close to the sites of Tjala Tjukurpa, to Altanitja, Kungka-Yuu, Tupuul and to Amata Rockhole. Hence this painting, titled Tjala Tjukurpa (Honey Ant Story) (2015), connects earth and sky and is both terrestrial and celestial. The painting’s constellation of forms, in brilliant and radiating colour, are at once the rockholes, caves and creek beds of Tjala country and the fleeing sisters escaping Wati Nyiru in the night sky.