Yabbering with Anzus

Yabbering with Anzus 4

A recent enquiry from a collector expressed concern that his Seven Sisters painting by Reggie Sultan was a fake. He had bought his Reggie Sultan painting in Alice Springs as an original and he saw a Reggie sultan painting very similar to his on my website www.aboriginalartgalleries.com

The authenticity of any painting is very important and is why most aboriginal art galleries will offer a certificate guaranteeing the provenance of the work being sold. South East Asian sweat shops continue to turn out thousands of copies of so called “aboriginal art”. These fake paintings and other fake objects are mostly sold in gift shops, tourist outlets and large internet auction houses at low prices.

The collector’s concern was understandable. The painting in question is very attractive and pride of ownership in such paintings is an important issue. The collector needed clarification about the authenticity of his painting and I was pleased to be able to inform him that both of the paintings were originals.

Aborigines are restricted by aboriginal law in the number of subjects they can paint. What an artist can depict depends on their own place in aboriginal society, their language group, their own particular “totem” and Dreaming stories. In western terms, this is equivalent to being only allowed to paint their own intellectual property. They are forbidden to paint any subject from outside their own country, or part of their own culture. As a result of these laws, aborigines paint only a few subjects, but paint them over and over. However this law breaks down for aborigines living outside traditional areas such as inner Sydney and Melbourne.

Reggie Sultan is an interesting bloke and I will write about him in the future. He had to change the Seven Sisters story, a woman’s story, and make it unisex. Reggie’s version makes a great painting. See it above and then check my website to compare it with other Seven Sisters paintings by other artists.

Other examples which show aboriginal artists painting a subject over and over are Gloria Petyarre’s “Leaves”, Walala Tjapaltjarri’s “Tingari Dreaming” and Barbara’ Weir’s “Grass”. These artists all paint other topics too. The repetition does not mean that the paintings are not original, or that they are copies. Each painting is just another interpretation of the subject being painted.