‘The bloodwood trees grow around the Epenarra. They grow flowers. There are lots on the Frew. This is my Father’s Country”
– Rita Kemarr Beasley (translated from Alyawarr to English by Jessie Beasley).
Rita Beasley is an Alyawarr artist from the tiny community of Wutunugurra (Epenarra) in the foothills of Iytwelepenty (the Davenport ranges). Born circa 1951 in the bush around Wutunugurra, Rita has lived in the small Alyawarr community her entire life.
Rita began painting infrequently in the early 2000s when outreach programs first brought art workshops to the community. Once Barkly Regional Arts established a presence in Wutunugurra around 2012, Rita gained more frequent access to materials, her natural fluency with materials and colours continued to develop into a confident and entirely individual approach to painting. Over the past two years, Rita’s transition onto larger scale canvases has seen leaps in the evolution of her creative practice, allowing her to establish a unique visual language which is increasingly the object of critical acclaim.
Rita working in the Epenarra artist’s studio
Most recently, Rita was selected as a finalist for the 2022 National Emerging Artists Prize, her work ‘Wutunugurra at Night’ is on show at Michael Reid Art Bar in Sydney this November.
With an energetic and expressive style, Rita creates loose and evocative depictions of Country using large blocks of colour in a palette inspired by her Country. The heavy darkness of ‘Wutunugurra at Night’ is disrupted only by a sprinkle of stars, the stark white trunks of Desert Bloodwood trees and kwaty (water) running through the ephemeral Frew River. With thick, gestural brushstrokes, Rita depicts Bloodwood trees standing either side of the Frew, her use of multiple perspectives means that the trees on the far side of the river appear upturned. The topography of thick marks and ridges left by heavy underpainting creates a richly textural surface, contrasted by a purple wash against which the largest tree stands, indicating the significance of certain natural landmarks around Wutunutgurra.
Rita builds layers and layers of paint when she works, dotting laboriously over a section of canvas only to paint over it again in a new colour. While sometimes her paintings are finished with her first few strokes, more often Rita’s intuitive process means her paintings can go through many evolutions, forming and re-forming, until the work reaches a state of completion she is satisfied with. Watching her paint, one will see many apparently promising paintings appear and then be covered over, the final product often being entirely different from where she first began.
Be part of Rita’s creative journey, purchase one of the limited number of works now available online.