In Search of the Churinga, 2011
William Ferguson (Born 1932)
acrylic on canvas
82 x 90 cm
signed lower right, signed, dated and titled verso
Exhibited – William Ferguson – Tribal Traces, Catherine Asquith Gallery, Melbourne, 24th May-11th June 2011, Cat. No. 4
0419 540 162
The imprints of time in the landscape have captured William Ferguson's creative imagination since he began painting. Through his many travels through Central Australia he maintains a spiritual affinity with the desert and with Aboriginal people's traditional cultural responses to the land. Although strongly influenced by Aboriginality, his 'mark making' is always distinctively individual. He aims to penetrate and experience, from the 'inside', the mysteries of Aboriginal creation mythology. In these journeys he discovers his own personal symbology.
Ferguson has not sought to appropriate Aboriginal cultural motifs. As Gary Catalano has observed: "He attempts the difficult task of finding in his own cultural heritage an equivalent set of marks to those which Aboriginal artists use when they evoke a sense of sacredness of the natural world. Ferguson, we could say, aims to be an inspired translator”.
William Ferguson's beautiful abstract painting is about a search for a Churinga which is an object of wood or stone considered to be of religious significance by Central Australian indigenous people of the Arrernte (Aranda, Arunta) groups. A Churinga is often elliptical in shape, bears incised designs, is believed to represent either the spiritual double of a living native or the embodiment of the spirit of a totemic ancestor.
William Ferguson was born in Melbourne and studied at RMIT and Melbourne Teachers College. He later became Head of Art and Design at Melbourne State College and Senior Lecturer in Painting at RMIT. He is represented in many collections including the Australian National Gallery and the Tasmanian Art Gallery.