This is the Bardon Brothers story of the early days of the contemporary Western Desert Art movement. “The momentous movement began in 1971 when Geoffrey Bardon, a hopeful young art teacher, drove the long lonely road from Alice Springs to the settlement at Papunya in the Northern Territory. He left only eighteen months later, defeated by hostile white authority, but a lasting legacy was the emergence of the Western Desert painting style. It started as an exercise to encourage local children to record their sand patterns and games, and grew to include tribal men and elders painting depictions of their ceremonial lives onto scraps of discarded building materials. With Bardon’s support, they preserved their traditional Dreamings and stories in paint. The artistic energy unleashed at Papunya spread through Central Australia to achieve international acclaim. These works are now regarded as some of Australia’s most treasured cultural, historical and artistic items.
The publication of this material is an unprecedented achievement. Bardon’s exquisitely recorded notes and drawings reproduced here document the early stages in this important art group. This landmark book features more than five hundred paintings, drawings and photographs from Bardon’s personal archive. It tells the story of the catalyst for a powerfully modern expression of an ancient indigenous way of seeing the world.”
Geoffrey Robert Bardon was born in Sydney in 1940. He was educated at the University of Sydney, where he studied law for three years, and the National Art School, Sydney, where for four years he studied art education before graduating in 1966. He taught art at various New South Wales regional high schools before taking up a posting to Papunya in the Northern Territory in 1971. He worked closely with the Indigenous painters who became the founders of the Papunya Tula painting movement from 1971 to 1973 and devoted many years after this to documenting and promoting the art he so admired. He made three documentary films- The Richer Hours (1971), A Calendar of Dreamings (1976) and Mick and the Moon (1978). He has two previous publications- Aboriginal Art of the Western Desert (1979) and Papunya Tula- Art of the Western Desert (1991). Geoffrey Bardon was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988 for service to the preservation and development of traditional Indigenous art forms. He died in May 2003 before the first edition of this book was published. He is survived by his wife Dorn and two sons, James and Michael.
James Bardon is the older brother of Geoffrey Bardon. After Geoffrey’s death he helped realise this, Geoffrey’s last book. He was a practicing solicitor in New South Wales and author of the prize-winning novel Revolution by Night (1991). James Bardon has been associated with his brother and Western Desert art for many years; he was the producer of A Calendar of Dreamings and the co-writer of Mick and the Moon.