Margaret Loy Pula in front of the largest work from her debut exhibition

Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 10.09.10

Dates: 12.09.10
Location: 14 Lindsay Avenue, Alice Springs

After three years of preparation, the old butcher's shop in Lindsay Avenue on Alice Springs' Eastside is reopening as the Muk Muk Gallery. Appropriately, the new gallery has a brand new artist on show – Margaret Loy Pula, one of Kathleen Petyarre's daughters, and mother to one of the next generation of artists from Utopia – Abie Loy.
Where has the 54 year old Margaret been while her own daughter was emerging? The answer, according to Muk Muk's Mike Mitchell, is being fully engaged as the primary carer at Mosquito Bore for six children and nine grandchildren. “But it's my time now”, she's declared.

“I fell off a chair when I first saw Margaret's works more than two years ago”, says Mitchell. “But she needed time to develop – I've probably only sold 4 pieces since then, though each one flew off the walls of its gallery”. Muk Muk has been mainly operating as a curatorial business – especially overseas; putting shows together for galleries like Rebecca Hossack's in London and others on the Continent. “I've also been nurturing artists like Margaret – giving her bigger and bigger canvases, buying her work, and keeping her under wraps”.

There are obviously links to her mother's work – the mass of moving dots reflecting Kathleen Petyarre's concept of the bush yam or potato: Anatye, as all of Margaret's works are called. But with Kathleen spending most of her time in Adelaide recently, it was daughter Abie who inspired her Mum to get painting. Mind you, it was Margaret herself who insisted on using the painting bottle with a needle release of paint for her myriad little dots – which you can see in the photo above.
Mitchell's choice of Eastide rather than the town's central Mall for his gallery was deliberate. “It's only a 5 minute walk from the mall”, he said. “But we really only want to attract serious viewers with a bit of time to spend with us – by appointment only. Dallas Gold has the same idea with his new Raft space. We've got 200 serious, large canvases that are worth looking at”.
That compares with a major operation on The Mall like Mbantua which is said to turn over as many as 13,000 canvases in a year.
With Margaret Loy Pula preferring to paint on country at Mosquito Bore, the threat of losing her work to one of many passing dealers must be great. But Mitchell is optimistic about her loyalty. “She's seen what happened to Evelyn Pultara (whom Muk Muk took to the painting prize at the NATSIAAs 5/6 years ago). Her works are everywhere, and it killed her career before it could take off. We've discussed it all with her, and Margaret knows we've invested three years in her; so I'm optimistic that she'll be loyal”.
It's an argument for the community art centre movement – though that's never taken off at Utopia. One of the high point of the movement's year coincides with the Muk Muk opening this weekend when Desert Mob kicks off at the Araluen Art Centre in Alice. Mitchell is happy to take advantage of the crowds in town for that – but has deliberately delayed his opening until 11 on the Sunday morning (12 Sept) after the regular feeding frenzy of the Desert Mob opening.
“There's a good buzz about town right now”, Mike Mitchell reports – as well he might, since 6 of the works by Margaret Loy Pula (prices between $3,800 and $20,000) have already sold.


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'Anatye' - the Bush Potato Dreaming by Margaret Loy Pula. 140 x 140


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