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.

Timmy Payungka Tjapangati (Pintupi c. 1940–2000)

Standing tall, and with a lean hunter-warrior build, there was a touch of vanity about him. He knew that he was a handsome man. He wore a tightly bunched cluster of white feathers in his bright red headband and a long nose-bone horizontally through his nose. There was no more striking figure in the Pintupi camp. (R. G. (Dick) Kimber, 2011)

Timmy Payungka was born at Parayirpilynga near Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay). During his childhood and adolescence, a time of severe drought, he travelled with his family in search of rations, east to Haasts Bluff, north to Balgo and south to Warburton, where he met his wife. In 1957 Timmy and his young family were met by Welfare Branch patrol officer Jeremy Long at Yarannga rockhole. The following year he walked with his extended family and his father-in-law Uta Uta Tjangala into Haasts Bluff and then moved to Papunya.

Timmy used his language skills to assist Geoffrey Bardon and was one of the few to speak Warlpiri, which he used to encourage a sharing of ritual knowledge. In 1971–72 he was an inventive artist, painting a range of subjects, including those of Dancing Women, Dingo, Snake and Water Dreaming. In 1994 a solo exhibition of Timmy Payungka's work was held at Aboriginal and South Pacific Gallery, Sydney.

Timmy was a keen advocate for the resettlement of the Pintupi homelands. From the mid 1990s, he lived in Alice Springs with his wife and two daughters to be close to the dialysis unit, where he received regular treatment. During this period he painted some optical geometric works in black and black or red and white, which reference the interlocking key design that is incised on pearl shell pendants, shields and other men's objects and is associated with water.

Timmy Payungka Tjapangati 1972
Pintupi c.1940-2000
Photo © Allan Scott


  • EXHI015177
    Timmy Payungka Tjapangati
    Pintupi c.1940-2000
    Sandhill country west of Wilkinkarra, Lake Mackay 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    76.0 x 52.0 cm
    National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
    The Peter Fannin Collection of Early Western Desert Paintings
    Purchased, 1998
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015398
    Timmy Payungka Tjapangati
    Pintupi c.1940-2000
    Possum Dreaming for children 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    60.0 x 50.0 cm
    Private collection
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • 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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