Marianne Burton, like many Martumili Artists, started painting through the natural, organic process of learning from her family. Her father was senior Martu artist Pukina Burton, and Marianne would sit down with him as he painted stories about his Country. Eventually she was encouraged to paint ‘a little canvas’, and since then she has continued to develop her own unique and striking style.
Depicting the country around Punmu and Kunawarritji, Marianne typically begins her paintings with underlayers of loose brushstrokes in harmonious, subdued palettes, indicating geographical formations, water sources, and broad sections of country. These are painted over in shimmering, sunset hues, with delicate and refined dotting suggestive of the warta (trees, vegetation) sparsely covering the desert terrains.
How do you like your tea?
I like to drink my tea every morning. White, no sugar, no biscuits!
Can you tell us a bit about your early history?
My mother’s from 33 area (Kunawarritji, Canning Stock Route Well 33) and my father’s from around the Warburton ranges. I was born in Jigalong, and I moved to Camp 61 (Ngalkuninya) when I was thirteen or fourteen. Then we moved to Punmu with a big group of people. I’ve been living in Punmu since.
When did you start painting?
That’s long time ago, when my dad was painting. I went there sitting down, sometimes he told me to help. I was looking at [watching] him first. Carly [Day, previous manager at Martumili Artists] mob told me ‘you wanna do a little canvas?’ That’s why I been doing little bit, learning.
What did your father paint about?
He been coming through Warburton, walking around. He been painting that country, them rockholes.
Can you tell us about your paintings?
I always paint around Punmu, where I live. All them spring[s] that in Punmu. That’s the one I paint. I like living there because I grew up there. Punmu like good place to us, to stay there. We go everywhere around Punmu. All down the sandhill, climb up. Stay there a little while. Go for a walk down the lake [Nyayartakujarra, or Lake Dora] too, through Jila-Jila and Wirlarra (Wilarra), another two springs there.
You know when I paint, it makes me good around my place, where I live. Make me like [I] want to do still stay there, yeah, and do more painting about Punmu. Mmm. That’s why I’m happy there, and [why] I live there.
Sometimes I paint about my mother’s country too, where she was born. We’d go there, visit people and go back Punmu.
You learned to paint with your father, and now you’re teaching your granddaughter Azaniah and grandson Jake. How does this make you feel?
I feel good. They might want to learn more. Same way that I watched my dad, they sit down next to me and they want to paint. I like having my family around to paint.
What's been your most exciting moment as an artist so far?
We went for that exhibition, Fremantle one [Revealed Exhibition: New and Emerging WA Aboriginal Artists, 2019] and ‘What Now’ [: The next Generation of Martumili Artists] at Form [The Goods Shed, Claremont, 2020]. We went to Perth for those exhibitions. We went and saw my paintings. It was good. I talked about my paintings with a lot of people. [My granddaughter] Azaniah came too. I’d like to go to other places in Australia too, maybe other countries! I feel good talking about my painting. I feel proud.