Billy started painting in the Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artist Studio in 2004. He primarily paints his Mother’s country, Jay Creek, in the West Macdonnell Ranges, creating landscapes where the various textures and patterns of rocks and flora play against each other. Billy’s ability to evoke the beauty of the Central Desert in his paintings demonstrates his strong connection to the land.
Billy speaks about the history of painting in his family:
“My grandfather been telling me to paint. Long time ago, he painted. He been teaching me about painting when I was a young boy. He liked to paint countryside. Bill Okai… My mother, Mona Okai, she was painting, she painted anything, she painted dot work. She been pass away, long time ago.”
Billy’s graphic style of painting has a sense of calm and balance within. Drawing inspiration from the increasing population and traffic within the Central Desert Region, Billy started adding trucks and cars to his textured landscapes in 2008. Soon after followed aeroplanes, helicopters and even the odd flying saucer, adding to the playful nature of his work. Interacting with these subjects are the animals that have always been there- the kangaroos, the emus, the lizards, the eagles. They look on from a perch on a rock or from the shade of a tree; they flee from oncoming traffic. They function as observers and survivors of this changing place.
“I always see lotta cars, at Jay Creek, Hermannsburg road… That’s what I’m thinking about. I think about all them cars. I seen all them tourists driving through to Standley Chasm; stop out there, see them kangaroos- long time ago.”
More recently Billy has been depicting scenes of remote communities and town camps, as the scope of his work continues to expand to encompass all things unique to Central Australia.