Raining on Kurtal

Ngarralja Tommy MAY: artist

On Display

About the work

Kurtal is the jila (living spring), Kurtal is the Kalpurtu that makes the rain, Kurtal is the ancestors. This work is Kurtal rising up and making it rain. (Mangkaja Arts 2017)
Kurtal waterhole is described as one of the most important sacred waterholes in the Great Sandy Desert. Recently, an acclaimed documentary film Putuparri and the Rainmakers (2015) was made about a group of custodians and their return to this sacred site. May is one of these custodians and about the rainmaker he says, ‘Kurtal is the Kalpurtu (Rainbow Serpent) that brings the rain. He is extremely powerful, not just anyone can talk to him. There is an important Junba (ceremony) that happens for him. He’ll come out, then he’ll bring the storm and it will rain’.
The proposed painting embodies the power and magnificence of Kurtal, and the storms he creates. This is specifically expressed through the artist’s use of a blue topcoat that he has methodically scratched away to reveal the white surface below. The scratches appear as dense blocks of bright white lines that striate and crisscross the surface. The composition moves seamlessly between electric clouds and heavy sheets of rain, with Kurtal orchestrating the scene. The painting is innovative and contemporary, but also harks back to earlier traditional forms of mark-making, such as carving and possibly ground design. Moreover, the work was exhibited in the 33rd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, last year.
Raining on Kurtal
Artist/Maker and role
Ngarralja Tommy MAY: artist
scratched enamel on tin
120.0 x 120.0cm
Display location
Credit line
Purchased 2017
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.