Important Fine Art + Aboriginal Art
2 December 2015


(c.1936 – 2002)

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

84.0 x 112.0 cm

inscribed verso: artist’s name, date and Alcaston Gallery cat. AK1220

$12,000 – 15,000

Hogarth Gallery, Sydney in association
with Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney New South Wales

Catalogue text

Ginger Riley described his own work as ‘the same, but different.’1 The ‘same’, refers to the constantly explored subject matter and narrative, but each work is varied in presentation, paint and design. The artist’s style is known to be figurative, colourful and mythical, with reoccurring iconographical elements. Riley grew up in the coastal salt-water country of the Mara people in south-eastern Arnhem Land, located in the Northern Territory. His mother’s country served as the basis and inspiration for his work.

In Limmen Bight Country, 1991 we see the landscape of south-east Arnhem Land with the Limmen Bight River dividing in two, as it flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The sea and the sky merge into one and wet season clouds hover at the top of the work. The picture on offer was painted not long after Riley had the opportunity to fly over his country in a light aircraft during a big wet. The lush blue, green and red colours of the work are identical to the landscape after the wet. The two islands of the coast are Beatrice and Maria Islands.

A characteristic element in much of Ginger Riley’s painting are the Four Archers: an area Riley referred to as ‘the centre of the earth, where all things start and finish…’2 According to the ancestors’ creation story the Four Archers were created by the snake Garimala. This snake transforms into different images, one of them is the Bulukbun: the angry fire breathing ‘serpent-dragon’. The landscape is framed by red chevrons, a motif that is derived from Riley’s Yidditja ritual body painting designs.

1. Ryan, J., Ginger Riley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1997, p. 10
2. Ibid., p. 32