Arnulf Ebatarinja, patiently portrayed the experience of being in his vibrant country, rather than dramas within the Dreaming or in his personal life. By careful attention to surface patterning he conveyed the sense that the country has its own innate vitality and also suggested what it felt like to be part of the country. The progressively evolving patterning was his cumulative expression of the importance to him of each part of his subject scenes. It was also a means of distinguishing himself from the other artists.
Arnulf developed his patterning cumulatively in two main stages: the first, from 1959 to around 1975, being the use of fine black marks to indicate natural or stylised patterning; and the second, from around 1975, being aimed at intensifying the portrayal of the country as being vibrant. He extended the fine marks in a more painterly way with small painted marks preceding the fine black marks over the top.
In the context of the conventional Hermannsburg School format, he developed a personally derived patterning system of black fine pen work under or over fine brushwork marks to intensify the impression of vitality. He had a sophisticated sense of what worked in compositions to enhance the experience of the viewer. For example, the high viewpoint and design of some compositions conveys the sensation of floating above the scene portrayed. Arnulf was an important painter of the 1960s and 1970s.
He was one of a few of the artists to use strong verticals, sometimes slanting, at right angles to the ground. His verticals were somewhat relaxed. He knew the importance of verticals in counterbalancing prominent horizontal bands in design, such as of flat plains and river beds.
Arnulf appears to have started to paint in the second half of the 1950s and seriously from around 1959. He was part of the resurgence of the movement, inspired by the focus on Albert’s life, drama and death.
From the beginning, the artist applied his own innovations patiently and incrementally, starting with a soft orange under wash covering the paper completely, so that the simple colour system of lemon and ultramarine, and a little light red resonated. He anticipated the Papunya practice introduced by Geoffrey Bardon of preparing a coloured ground for the whole composition. Arnulf then reverted to the general practice of not preparing an all over underwash. Only one of the paintings, which is in a public collection, has a definite date, 1975.
Arnulf Ebatarinja was the son of Gottfried and Linda. Gottfried (1908-75) was the son of Joshua and Ruth Ebatarinja. Ruth (Blind Ruth) was the daughter of Magdalena Renkeraka a sister of old Titus, son of apical ancestor Renkeraka. (3.7.2 and 3.7.3. Palm Valley Land Claim No 48). Ruth was born c 1886 (p38 of Census papers). Gottfried (son of Ruth) was born c 1904. or 1908. Arnulf was a nephew of Walter Ebatarinja. He was Western Arrernte, Subsection (Skin) Perrurle.
Arnulf and Tabea Ebatarinja were the parents of Conley (Cornelius Richard) Ebatarinja, born 15.7.1959, who became an artist and is represented in the Flinders University Art Museum collection.
At the Census of Wards on 30 June 1966, Arnulf was at No 1 Artists camp Alice Springs with Joshua, Maurice, Claude and his wife Rosina, Enos and his wife Ruby. Arnulf’s wife was then stated to be Sophia and she and five children were at Hermannsburg.