Rover THOMAS JOOLAMA - Sydney Harbour

Rover THOMAS JOOLAMA - Sydney Harbour

1991, 120cm diameter ADG:29

SOLD some_text

ADG: 29


Story of Painting

Sydney Harbour, 1991

Rover Thomas visited Sydney in 1990, the year that Rover and Trevor Nicholls represented Australia in Venice for the Venice Biennale and he was most impressed with the Harbour Bridge. When Rover returned to Perth, where he was a guest of Mary Macha, and where Rover painted most of his paintings in the studio at the rear of her property, he asked Mary for a round canvas.

Sometime later on Rover finished this painting, and as usual, asked Mary for her opinion of the new painting. Rover found it difficult to provide the story and continually waved his arm around in a semi-circle, saying “You know, you know”.

Finally, they arrived at its meaning - the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Story told to me by Mary Macha, 1991. C.H.


Rover THOMAS JOOLAMA - biography

Born 1926 - 1998

Country Kimberley, Western Australia

Community Warmun [Turkey Creek]

Language Kukatja, Wangkajunga

Medium Painting, ochres on plywood, ochres on canvas with gum resin fixative.

Subjects Painted dreamings from Turkey Creek, Canning Stock Route, Kuril Kuril, Cyclone Tracey, Railway Bridge Katherine, Yari country, Mother Dog and Puppies, Milky Way, Sydney Harbour.

Rover Thomas, one of our most influential Aboriginal artists, began painting in the mid-1970s after a thirty year career as a stockman and labourer. He was born in the Great Sandy Desert; his mother was a Kukatja woman and his father Wankajunga; he was ‘grown up’, in the Aboriginal way, by two fathers, Lanikan Thomas and Sundown. When he was ten his family walked 500 kms to Billiluna Station, where he later underwent his traditional initiation.

Unemployment and migration caused by the equal pay ruling of the late 1960s, led Thomas to settle in Warmun, a community in the Kimberley, WA. The Gija style of his adopted country has a figurative orientation influenced by regional rock art and ceremonial body paint designs. Thomas draws on both Western Desert and East Kimberley styles, creating a highly individual synthesis that is rare in the work of bush artists. Rover Thomas came to prominence in the late 1980s.

Solo Exhibitions

2004 Rover Thomas: I want to paint, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

2003 Rover Thomas - I want to paint, The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

2002 The Paintings of Rover Thomas, Utopia Art, Sydney

1994 Roads Cross, The Paintings of Rover Thomas, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

1994 Rover Thomas, Utopia Art, Sydney

Recognition - Awards

1990     John McCaughey Prize.(Acquisitive) Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

1990     La Biennale di Venezia.Venice, Italy: Australian Representative, with Trevor Nickolls (b.1949)


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia

The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth

The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane


1993 Australia Post, Dreamings series, for International Year for the World's Indigenous People, Kalumpiwarra-Ngulalintji (1984), reproduced on the $1 postage stamp.

Ranking - Most Important Australian Indigenous Artists (both living and deceased)

2011 Ranked 2/100

You are here: Home Aboriginal Art Rover THOMAS JOOLAMA - Sydney Harbour