56. ROVER THOMAS (JULAMA)
Born in the Warburton Ranges south of the Great Sandy Desert, Rover Thomas was taken from Balgo Hills as a 12 year old boy and spent the next 40 years working as a stockman throughout the Kimberley and north-west gaining an intimate knowledge of the country. He began his career as an artist with a dream. Not the usual dream of an aspiring artist hoping for fame and recognition, but a dream of an epic journey across a vast landscape culminating in destruction and devastation.
The Krill Krill ceremony that Rover and Paddy Jaminji (1912-1996) created to bring this dream to life gave impetus to a painting movement based around Turkey Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia that survives and flourishes to this day. Within one prolific decade, before his death in 1998, Rover Thomas made his mark in Australian Art history with a vision of ancestral themes expressed in a distinct and highly personalised abstract style.
Rover repeated this Cross Roads image numerous times throughout his career - the cross roads represents the intersection of the black bitumen highway and the unsealed dirt road: between the city and the frontier. For Rover, it symbolised the separation from country experienced when he left for the city and the happy familiarity felt upon returning home. Rover first depicted the idea of modern and traditional life crossing in his work Roads Meeting painted in 1987. This work, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, was the foundation of the Cross Roads concept which Rover would revisit later in life as his own isolated, traditional life more frequently crossed over into contemporary life. As his career progressed, he would travel to various cities to visit and paint for art dealers and galleries who sold his paintings.
It was not until later in life that Rover began to paint, earning critical acclaim for his art. This recognition began a career which would see him becoming one of Australia’s most prominent indigenous artists and create a demand for his work from collectors around Australia and overseas. Rover Thomas loved to paint, his paintings are a form of visual language where stories of ‘country’, present and past, are a counterpoint to his direct observation of the landscape.
(No author noted)