Important Fine Art + Aboriginal Art
2 December 2015


(c.1926 – 1998)

natural earth pigments on linen

137.0 x 101.0 cm

signed on the reverse and inscribed verso: Duncan Kentish cat, 001/90

$35,000 – 45,000
Sold for $39,040 (inc. BP) in Auction 41 - 2 December 2015, Sydney

Commissioned by Duncan Kentish at Warmun in 1990
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

‘Nowhere has the merging of the past and present, the spiritual and physical been more clearly realised than in Thomas’s paintings.’1

In 1990 Rover Thomas together with Trevor Nickolls were the first Indigenous artists to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. Further recognition came with his solo exhibition, Roads Cross; The Paintings of Rover Thomas, staged at the National Gallery of Australia between February and June 1994 and his inclusion in World of Dreamings: Traditional and Modern Art of Australia, an exhibition of major Aboriginal artists held at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in Russia from February to April 2000.

Rover Thomas moved to the Kimberley at the age of ten relocating far to the north of his birthplace close to Well 33 in the Great Sandy Desert. When he started painting in 1982, Thomas created works of art inspired by stories and historical events from the Eastern part of the Kimberley. The inventive and original way he composed his works of art with large voluminous forms outlined with dotting would become the basis of The East Kimberley School of painting. Characterised by two modes of representation that converge in a single gestural style, aerial views often depict roads and flattened country surfaces while simultaneously profile views outline the geography of the Kimberley.

Minimal and sparse, Crossroads, 1990 shows this clear intuitive and graphic Kimberley style. The canvas is divided by a cross into four blocks, executed in the typical palette of the Kimberley; red and brown earth pigments outlined by a tracery of white dots made with huntite, a white chalky pigment used in ceremony and rock art.

Images of roads meeting became an enduring theme throughout his painting career and Rover produced a number of works featuring intersecting lines of travel routes. Wally Caruana in the exhibition catalogue to World of Dreamings, Traditional and Modern art of Australia posits that such imagery is potentially indicative of ‘an image of reconciliation, of the artist’s belief that both black and white can live in harmony, the image of the black line symbolising a bitumen road crossing the red line of an ancestral path suggests an inescapable reality; the mixture of peoples sharing the same lands in the contemporary world.’2

1. Perkins, H., Traditions Today; Indigenous Art in Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004, p. 134
2. Caruana, W., World of Dreamings; Traditional and modern art of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, electronic catalogue: accessed: October 2015