Douglas Kwarlple Abbott / Australia b.1954 / Katatjuta – The Olgas 2008 / Watercolour / 54 x 74cm / The Glenn Manser Collection. Gift of Glenn Manser through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2016. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott/Courtesy: Iitja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre

Douglas Kwarlple Abbott
Katatjuta – The Olgas 2008

On Display: QAG, Gallery 2

Painting is extremely important for Douglas Abbott, as he once said: ‘Our land is part of us. Deep inside me I miss my country. I might stop in Alice Springs here, and the station owners own the country, but I know in my heart that it’s my country. It’s my land…Namatjira had it in his mind and when he started off painting he put what he had in his mind on the board and showed the whole world what a beautiful country Central Australia is.’

The Olgas is known as Katatjuta in Pitjantjatjara language, which translates to ‘many heads’. It is made up of 36 monumental red sandstone formations which cover a surface area of some 20 kilometres. The sacred site, which is located in the Northern Territory, is believed to be approximately 500 million years old.

Douglas Kwarlple Abbott was born in Hermannsburg in 1954 and initially grew up near Idracowra on the banks of the Finke River, south of Alice Springs. His paternal grandmother’s place is at Waterhouse, near Hermannsburg at the end of the James and Waterhouse Ranges.

Under local kinship systems, Albert Namatjira was regarded as Douglas Abbott’s grandfather. As a young boy Douglas used to watch Namatjira paint, as well as his cousin Clem Abbott and other members of the original Hermannsburg watercolour artists. Clem advised Douglas to develop his own style, which he has done with great success. Abbott’s paintings are characterised by intense colour, and detail is contained within simple bold shapes.

Talking about the personal significance of his painting, Douglas says:

‘Our land is part of us. Deep inside me I miss my country. I might stop in Alice Springs here, and the station owners own the country, but I know in my heart that it’s my country. It’s my land . . . Namatjira had it in his mind and when he started off painting he put what he had in his mind on the board and showed the whole world what a beautiful country Central Australia is.’

Douglas has been painting for many years and was included in the ‘Contemporary Cross-Currents’ section of the 1991 national touring exhibition ‘The Heritage of Namatjira’, curated by Flinders University Art Museum. He was a co-founder, with his wife and others, of the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit.

Endnotes:

Further information:

National Indigenous Television, ‘The story of Doug Abbott’, in Every hill got a story, <http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/feature/everyhill/ch1-6>

Iltja Ntjarra, Many Hands Art Centre: Home of the Namatjira Artists, 2017, <https://manyhandsart.com.au/artist/douglas-kwarlpe-abbott/>