Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton
- Take your time to observe the scale and complexity of this artwork.
- What aspects of these paintings stand out to you?
- Why do you think they were painted by two artists?
- Does collaborative artmaking change the meaning of a work?
Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton both live and work in the Indulkana community on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the Southern Desert region, South Australia. Having worked as ngangkari (healer) for many years, both together and separately, Muffler and Burton also have their own separate art practices. Burton uses large paint brushes to create big circular lines indicating the Anamara (caterpillars) and rock holes found on her Country. Muffler paints with small fine brushes to create flowing lines and marks using almost only the colour white.
The two large-scale artworks presented in The National 2021 are both titled Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country). Maringka paints Anamara Piti – the caterpillar dreaming site where she was born near Wingellina – and Betty paints her Country south of Watarru.
Maringka says: “We have done so much work together as healers. We both started off painting on our own, each of us painting the Country where we were born and belong. These places are an essential part of each of us.”
Creative learning activity
You will need:
- A large piece of paper
- A range of coloured papers
Artmaking can be about self-expression, yet many artists come together to create collaborative works. Collaborating with your peers brings together different experiences, memories and voices to create a narrative that is personal, yet shared.
- Spend time thinking about important memories you have. Are they connected to people, places, or objects? You might consider your understanding of home, for example.
- Consider the landscape you grew up on – were there places you regularly visited or activities you took part in. Focus on the memories of place as well as its sounds, shapes and colours.
- Narrow down these memories to three.
- Start to sketch aspects of these memories, also writing down words or ideas that stand out.
- For each of your three memories, design a shape, symbol or pattern to reflect the character or feeling of that memory.
- Create multiple copies of your motifs by drawing, cutting out paper shapes, or painting them.
- Once you have finished your motifs, start to work with your partner.
- Discuss and plan how you want to combine your sets of shapes, symbols or patterns together into one composition. You can experiment with layering, collage or playing around with positive and negative space.
- You may decide to create a narrative or theme to shape the work.
- After planning your ideas, arrange and glue your motifs onto a large piece of paper to create your shared artwork.
- Now that you have finished creating your artwork in pairs, you may choose to extend the work further. Consider how all the artworks in your class might come together to create a collective display. For example, you could curate a class exhibition, compile an art book, or take a series of photographs that could be displayed in a presentation.
- Look at Muffler’s and Burton’s works and discuss the impact of scale on their meaning. How has scale played a role in your art-making?
- Reflect on the process of collaboration. How was it different from working individually?
- What were some of the advantages and challenges in this shared process?
- Does collaborating change or alter the meaning of an artwork? In what ways?
- Has this activity allowed you to learn something new about your partner?