Tjukurrtjanu TjukurrtjanuTjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art

NGV NGVNGV: 150 years Museum VictoriaMuseum Victoria Papanya Tula ArtistsPapanya Tula Artists

  • An NGV Touring Exhibition
  • 30 September 2011 – 12 February 2012
  • The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia,
  • Federation Square, Melbourne
  • 9 October 2012 – 20 January 2013
  • Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art examines a watershed moment in the history of art when a painting practice emerged at Papunya in Central Australia. Tjukurrtjanu gives prominence to 200 of the first paintings produced at Papunya between 1971 and 1972 and also establishes the vital connection between the works of art and their sources in ephemeral designs made for use in ceremony.

A collaboration between the NGV and Museum Victoria.
In partnership with Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd.

This website contains the names, images and works of Indigenous people who have passed away, which may cause distress to some Indigenous people.

Indigenous people from Central Australia and the Western Desert are advised that this exhibition contains culturally sensitive works that may be considered harmful or inappropriate for viewing by women or uninitiated members of their communities. Care has been taken to respect cultural protocols and, following a comprehensive consultation process, these works will be exhibited separately for the duration of the exhibition and will not be illustrated in the exhibition catalogue or displayed on this website.

Please note that some records contain terms and annotations that reflect the period in which the item was recorded, and may be considered inappropriate today in some circumstances.

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa (Pintupi born c. 1943)

It wasn't until March 1972 that Bardon became aware of Ronnie's presence amongst the artists who were working in the Great Painting room. Under the tutelage of Uta Uta, his father's younger brother, Ronnie tentatively began experimenting with a raft of new materials. Driven by a desire to express his knowledge and experience of ritual amongst his cultural peers, Ronnie's first paintings are replete with overt depictions of finely decorated ceremonial objects. (Luke Scholes, 2011)

Ronnie was born near the site of Muyinnga and was initiated at Yumari, near his birthplace. Ronnie and his younger brother Smithy Zimran came in from the bush at Yuendumu and later joined their relatives in Papunya, where he worked for a while as a labourer. He was one of the Pintupi men who gathered on the verandah of Geoffrey Bardon's flat before joining others in the Men's Painting Room and producing works that sometimes disclose aspects of men's ritual.

In 1983, following the establishment of Walungurru in 1981, Ronnie returned to his ancestral lands. Over the next decade he emerged as one of Papunya Tula's major artists, pioneering the scaled-up, bold linear style characteristic of Pintupi work of the 1990s. In 1988 he won the Alice Prize and the following year his first solo exhibition was held at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne. In 1993 the artist made a significant contribution to Perspecta at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa 1972
Pintupi born c.1943
Photo © Allan Scott


  • Ad100432

    Wartanuma is the Pintupi word for a particular species of flying ant and is also the name of a claypan and soakage water site northwest of Walungurru. The Wartunuma (Flying Ant) Dreaming travelled west from Wantungurru on Alcoota Station to Kilpirrnga south east of Jupiter Well, in the Gibson Desert. Kilpirrnga is a hill site with a large cave, which is represented by a rectangular shape towards the bottom. The concentric circles towards the top show the camps of three old men who had gathered for ceremonies and were sitting on the crest of the hill.

    This work shows the daring simplicity and expansiveness of Tjampitjinpa’s mature style, in which flat blocks of colour are dominant and one or more geometric motifs are writ large, resulting in work of power and muscular presence. In Tjampitjinpa’s work, the scale and iconography of a ritual object or body design is transformed into that of a monumental ground painting.

    Ronnie Tjampitjinpa
    Pintupi born c.1943
    Wartunuma (Flying Ant) Dreaming 1991
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    153.0 x 183.0 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Presented through the NGV Foundation by anonymous donors, 2006 (2006.12)
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • Ad100878
    Ronnie Tjampitjinpa
    Pintupi born c.1943
    Water Dreaming at Malparingya 2006
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    152.2 x 182.5 cm
    Felton Bequest, 2011
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • EXHI015831
    Bardi active 1930s
    Pearl shell pendant 1930s
    pearl shell, earth pigments, human hair
    56.0 x 12.0 x 5.0 cm
    Museum Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased from the Cripps Collection, 1984 (X98248)
    © Museum Victoria 2011 / Photographer Benjamin Healley

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