My Favourite Painting: Alison Mitchell

'I was struck by the bold, vibrant colours and swirling shapes. It conveyed a sense of purpose and positivity to me at a time when I was feeling a little lost.'

Alison Mitchell chooses Seven Sisters:

‘I stopped in my tracks when I saw this at the British Museum in an exhibition celebrating indigenous Australia. I’m half Australian, so I grew up with an appreciation of indigenous culture.

‘I was struck by the bold, vibrant colours and swirling shapes. It conveyed a sense of purpose and positivity to me at a time when I was feeling a little lost. I later learnt it depicts the Dreamtime Story of the Seven Sisters – a tale of travel, lust and, ultimately, escape.

‘I purchased a large, square silk scarf of it, which remained folded in my wardrobe until I bought my first flat. I then had the scarf stretched and framed and it now has pride of place in my hallway above the stairs. And I love it. It gives off an energy.’

Alison Mitchell is a cricket commentator and contributor to the BBC’s Test Match Special

John McEwen on Seven Sisters:

This picture was painted by six senior Spinifex women of their Spinifex homeland, the arid lands known to modern Australians as the Great Victoria Desert, which spans Western and South Australia.

To translate images into words is contrary enough. How much more daunting to describe the ‘art’ of a 60,000-year-old culture devoid of writing. That is what confronts outsiders looking at Aboriginal art. Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) is no exception. It’s an example of a ‘landscape’, a visualisation of Aboriginal beliefs and knowledge systems referred to in English as ‘Dreaming’ or ‘Dreamtime’ – words coined by a non-Aboriginal Australian only 100 years ago.

This is just one image from among countless others that bears witness to one of the world’s oldest and most successful civilisations, one that has harmoniously managed a continent ‘every inch’ of which is named in one or other of the 250 Aboriginal languages.

The ‘Dreamings’ or ‘songlines’ that constitute Seven Sisters are told across the continent in numerous versions relating to the travels of a group of women who, in singing and dancing, created aspects of the landscape. The women were pursued by a lustful man, known to the Spinifex as Nyiru. They tricked Nyiru and escaped into the heavens, where they became stars – what the Western world calls the Pleiades.

Reinterpreted in acrylic on canvas – a modern concession – the circles appear to correspond with a landscape immemorially dotted with clay pans and salt lakes.


My favourite painting: Amy Meyers

'Stubbs’s portrayal is one of the subtlest and most poignant commentaries on the troubling displacements that were accruing from the