Despite extensive and at times contested retellings of the origins of Papunya Tula painting, few authors have identified the extent to which intercultural influences affected the work of the founding artists, preferring instead to interpret the emergence of contemporary Aboriginal art, at a remote settlement in Central Australia, as a marker of Indigenous cultural autonomy and resistance. A recently unearthed painting by the Anmatyerr artist Clifford Possum challenges this interpretation and suggests that the desert art movement arose from a more complex social milieu than has previously been acknowledged. As one of the earliest and most unusual paintings by a major Australian artist, the ‘new Possum’ is of undeniable significance. Our analysis of this work reveals that it is, in large part, derived from photographs published in a well-known anthropological classic. An examination of the painting and its sources will begin to build a picture of early influences on Anmatyerr art and the intriguing intercultural context in which the ‘new Possum’ and related works were created.
JASON GIBSON AND JOHN KEAN | ‘New Possum Found!’ Photographic Influences on Anmatyerr Art