The painted plane in Boeing's hanger in Seattle

Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 15.02.18

Qantas has revealed images of its fifth jet-liner featuring a special Indigenous livery in the paint-shop at Boeing’s Everett facility just outside Seattle. The airline says the new livery is based on a work by the late Northern Territory artist and senior Anmatyerre woman, Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Her 1991 painting, Yam Dreaming has been adapted for the aircraft by the Indigenous-owned design studio Balarinji – also responsible for adapting art from Yanyuwa, the Western Desert and the East Kimberley for earlier planes, dating back to 1994.

“It’s been a privilege to work with the brilliant imagery of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye to create the airline’s fifth iconic Indigenous flying art aircraft”, Ros Moriarty, managing director of Balarinji said. “Emily was an extraordinary artist who is revered around the world”.

But not, it would seem sufficiently by Balarinji. For anyone with the slightest experience of Emily's work regarding this latest effort would respond as tersely as Christopher Hodges of Utopia Gallery – one of the artist's major dealers during her brief career (1988 to 96): “This has nothing to do with Emily in the slightest!”.

By 1991, the supposed date of the work chosen to adapt to the plane, she had achieved absolute mastery in multiple over-dotting, invariably blending a range of three or four different colours. Simple white dots on red in groups as Balarinji has 'invented' were quite unknown. Many of her works were now called Alhalkere/My Country, and had become much more complex than her earlier Kame/Yam paintings – which sometimes had the roots lying deep below the dotting of the Yam flowers. Later, the yam roots would reassert themselves, massive black on white tangles.

Nothing like the Qantas effort. How could they have got it so wrong?

For the fourth Qantas aircraft in 2013 dealt quite successfully with the work of the late, great Paddy Goowoomji Bedford, leader of the Jirrawun group of Gija artists in the East Kimberley. The Boeing 737-800 aircraft was named “Mendoowoorrji” after the artist's 2005 painting, Medicine Pocket, a camping place on what became Bedford Downs Station – the place that gave Paddy his surname. The original artwork was chosen from a group offered by the National Gallery in Canberra, and required 18 months of negotiation between the Bedford Estate and the Balarinji Design company. Maybe there is no-one today capable of representing the Kngwarreye Estate? For the Bedford Estate not only achieved aesthetic satisfaction, but also obtained a 10-year contract with Qantas regarding the artwork's copyright.

Certainly this work cannot have been approved by an expert like curator Margo Neale of the National Museum, who has organised two retrospectives of the artist's work, Chris Hodges or Tim Klingender, who has just announced a 1981 Emily painting, 'Kame – Summer Awelye II', for Sotheby's London auction of Aboriginal art on March 14. It is a sister work to Kame, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, and 3 metres wide. At the London sale it carries the highest estimate, £300,000 to £500,000.

Nevertheless, this unaesthetic Boeing 787-9 plane, named 'Emily Kame Kngwarreye' and numbered VH-ZND will be delivered to Australia next month and will start non-stop flights between Perth and London on March 24, linking the continents of Australia and Europe with regularly scheduled passenger flights for the first time.

URL: http://australianaviation.com.au/2018/02/qantas-unveils-indigenous-livery-boeing-787-9/

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The £500,000 Emily Kngwarreye painting, 'Kame - Summer Awelye II' (1991) offered for sale at Sotheby's in London in March


The NGV's 'sister' 'Kame/Yam' painting from 1991


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