"The Bloodwood trees grow around Epenarra. They grow flowers. There are lots on the Frew. This is my Father's country."
The heavy darkness of the desert night is disrupted only by a sprinkle of stars, the stark white trunks of Desert Bloodwood trees and kwaty (water) running through the ephemeral Frew River. With thick, gestural brush strokes, Rita Beasley has depicted Bloodwood trees standing either size of the Frew, Beasley's use of multiple perspectives means the trees on the far side of the river appear upturned. The topography of thick marks and ridges left by heavy underpainting creates a richly textural surface, contrasted by a purple wash against which the largest tree stands, indicating the significance of certain natural landmarks around Wutunugurra.
Rita Kemarr Beasley is an Epenarra artist known for her energetic and expressive style. Rita creates loose and evocative depictions of Country using large blocks of colour in a palette inspired by the Davenport Ranges where her home of Wutunugurra (Epenarra) is located. She builds layers and layers of paint when she works, dotting laboriously over a section of canvas only to paint over it again in a new colour. While sometimes her paintings are finished with her first few strokes, more often Rita’s intuitive process means her paintings can go through many evolutions, forming and re-forming, until the work reaches a state of completion she is satisfied with. Watching her paint, a viewer will see many apparently promising paintings appear and then be covered over, the final product often being entirely different from where she first began. The topography of thick marks and ridges of paint on the finished canvas is the only remaining evidence of the hidden paintings underneath.
Rita’s work frequently depicts sturdy trees whose thick white trunks stand starkly against her richly coloured backgrounds. These bright eucalypts flourish in the landscape surrounding Wutunugurra and feature in varied forms in the works of many of the Epenarra artists.
Rita began painting infrequently in the early 2000s, when outreach programs first brought art workshops to Wutunugurra community. Rita has had a vision impairment in one eye since birth, and at first painted under the guidance of her sisters Jessie and Topsy Beasley. Her natural fluency with materials and colours has continued to develop into a confident and entirely individual approach to painting.
Rita was born in the bush around Wutunugurra circa 1951, and has lived in the small Alyawarr community her entire life. She never married or had children, but she is surrounded by family of all ages. Spending time with family, sitting and talking and sharing stories, and attending church are her favourite ways to spend her time outside of painting at the art centre.