The beautifully-balanced cross motif of this 1998 work is a fine example of the seemingly abstract nature of Melville Island's most well known painter. Kitty Kantilla started making artefacts and carvings in the mid 1940s and was a foundation member of Melville Island's Jilamara Arts Centre's painting movement in the 1980s. The incised designs (jilamara) used by Tiwi people as decoration on their unique poles used in the burial (Pukamani) ceremony, are the basis of art in other media such as paintings and prints. So what appears as abstracted lines and geometric shape, have both ritualistic and story-telling bases.
Kantilla was one of Jilamara Design's most skilled painters and great innovators. Her works are in all public and numerous significant private collections and in 2003 a body of her work was included posthumously in the prestigious Clemenger Contemporary Art Award at the National Gallery of Victoria.
In the early 1990s Kantilla took traditional geometric designs into new realms by reducing their imagery to closely-painted streams of dots in ochre works on paper. In the mid 1990s, she made another leap by translating the ochres into canvas. The new medium allowed for for both freer expression and more textured finish. A forthright leader with a great sense of humour, Kantilla also used these traditional designs to represent stories of everyday life, such as domestic life and cooking preparation.
This painting is a fine example of Kantilla's unerring eye for design. Through the layers of heavy white dots, the brown ochres of the painting are glimpsed - its surface held together by a loosely outlined cross. Of rich texture, reduced yet strong colours, this is a particularly luscious example of Kantilla's highly sought after canvasses.