In the Northern Territory of Australia, home to the Anmatyerre people, the bush plum is considered a delicacy. But knowing where bush plums grow is not only a matter of eating well. Bush plums are also the fruit of creation, providing the Anmatyerre with a sacred connection to their ancestors and the spiritual origins of their country.
So it’s tricky to explain the paintings of Anmatyerre artist Angelina Pwerle. With their fine networks of dots on monochrome red or black backdrops, they can be said to depict bush plum plants and also to map territorial geography in terms of where the fruit can be found, while simultaneously representing songlines and ceremonies that outsiders will never know. For visitors to the Phillips Collection, where a selection of Pwerle’s paintings are included in a spectacular exhibition of contemporary art by Aboriginal women, there’s a vast abyss separating the painter’s