Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Honey Ant Ceremony

Gallery 6

About this work of art

Audio description of the work of art

Honey Ant Ceremony by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri is a synthetic polymer painting on board. Painted in 1972, it is 104cm high and 81.4cm wide with a thin wooden box frame.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri is an Anmatyerre man. Anmatyerre country is a desert area of over 29,000 square kilometres north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, central Australia.

Tjapaltjarri has used synthetic paint colours that mimic natural earth pigments; rust red ochre, golden yellow ochre, white ochre and charcoal black.

As the painting depicts an Anmatyerre cultural ceremony, some of the symbols and objects in the painting can only be understood by the artist’s community. Shapes and patterns are therefore described, but what the shapes and patterns represent are not always detailed because of cultural sensitivity.

An elongated ochre red oval edged with a row of small white dots is depicted centrally, the top and bottom of the oval reaching to the top and bottom of the painting. A second smaller elongated oval is positioned within the larger oval, the band of red ochre encircling it like a frame.

This second smaller elongated oval is patterned. In the centre is a circle 9cm in diameter. Finely painted red and white circles alternate, one-inside the other, smaller at the centre and larger at the edge, creating a radiating concentric pattern. Eight similarly patterned circles nestle underneath and around this central circle, each partially obscured by its neighbours. Collectively this central circle and the circles around it create a daisy-like flower motif.

This central motif is repeated above and below, three flower-like motifs one above the other. Similarly patterned concentric circles, this time in black and white, cluster around and underneath the three red and white flower-like motifs to create the central patterned oval.

Located within the red ochre frame encircling the patterned oval are depictions of weapons, tools and other cultural objects. Thin straight black lines ending in a point are spears. Wider curving black lines are boomerangs. Fans of white feathers with a looping black line are dancing belts. Other objects are similarly represented in black and white.

The painting has a symmetrical composition for the painted areas around the central oval are mirrored top to bottom and left to right.

Ochre red circles 13cm in diameter are positioned either side of the elongated large oval. Circular lines of fine white dots sit one inside the other within the two red circles, creating a radiating concentric pattern.

Above and below the ochre red circles dotted with white, the central pattern is repeated. Layered like the petals of a flower or the scales of a fish, red and yellow concentric circles fill the area in the upper left and lower right of the painting. The pattern is repeated in black and yellow in the lower left and upper right.

Positioned along the left and right edges of the painting are tall triangles striped with thin horizontal black and white lines. Eight elongated white ovals 12 to 13cm long, patterned with red ochre cultural symbols, sit within the patterned triangles. Four vertical ovals along the left edge of the painting are mirrored by four vertical ovals along the right edge.

The finely painted concentric and parallel lines in black, white, red and yellow, and the repeating layered pattern, create a sense of vibration or movement.

The painting has scratches or the paint has flaked off in some areas.